Making it up

AN unhappy customer can be a business’s best friend – if they are handled properly.

Dissatisfied customers can highlight problems in a company’s customer service and can be turned into ambassadors for the business.

Research shows that only one in 20 dissatisfied customers will complain.

Other research shows an appeased unhappy customer has more loyalty to the company than a happy customer.

Keystone Management director Steve Simpson said a dissatisfied customer was a gift.

“Businesses should be looking forward to unhappy customers,” Mr Simpson said.

He offers five tips for companies looking to make the best of dissatisfied customers – genuinely listen, apologise, empathise, take action to rectify the problem and follow up a day or a week later to make sure the customer is happy with the solution.

“Due to a fear of litigation there is an increasing propensity for organisations not to apologise. However, I don’t think a company can be taken to court for apologising for sloppy service,” Mr Simpson said.

“When a company takes action to fix the problem, there are two ways that can be done.

“They can offer a solution or give the customer the opportunity to choose how they would like the problem to be fixed.

“More often than not the customer asks for less to fix the problem than the company would have been prepared to offer.”

Edith Cowan University school of marketing, tourism and leisure senior lecturer Martin O’Neill said difficult customers were a godsend.

“We develop systems tailored to meet our customers’ needs and we need customer feedback so we can tailor to meet those needs,” Dr O’Neill said.

“Customer satisfaction needs to be determined by the customer, not the company.

“One of the main things leading to difficult customers is sometimes a misunderstanding about the company’s customer service system. Therefore, a difficult customer gives you an opportunity to educate them about how your system works.”

Marketing Centre managing director Michael Smith said difficult customers were “an opportunity”.

“People become loyal through acts of genuine friendship, when a company exceeds their expectations and when that company rectifies poor service,” he said.

“Our research shows that if a customer is unhappy because of a mistake then the company can gain huge value from fixing that mistake.”

However, Mr Smith said there were some customers that companies were better off not dealing with.

“I’m not a believer in the saying that the customer is always right. I’ve had clients that I would decline to work for again,” he said.

“It’s important in service organisations that the management maintains the dignity of the company and the dignity of their staff.”

Mr Simpson agreed that there were some customers that would never be satisfied.

“A company has the right to expect to be treated with respect just as the customer has the similar right,” he said.

p Next week: Measuring customer satisfaction.

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