Customer Recovery Strategy: Predetermine solutions to all top problems

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When I partner with a company that wants to build loyal relationships with their customers, I absolutely insist that they predetermine recovery strategies for top complaints. This single exercise positions frontline professionals to quickly determine recovery strategies that protect a company’s best customers from defection and strengthen loyalty after a service mishap.

Taken straight from our consulting playbook, here are 5 things I ask my clients to consider when generating solutions for all top problems:

Replacement

Sometimes the best resolution for the customer is for the company to replace the product. Clearly stating when this is most appropriate will help you offer quick and consistent resolutions.

Replacement “plus”

What I mean here is “make it a double for their trouble.” Let’s say you buy a new vacuum cleaner, get it home put it together, turn it on and it doesn’t work. You gather up the vacuum cleaner, the manual and your receipt, go back to Big Jakes and wait in line for 13 minutes to return it. When Little Jake exchanges it for a new vacuum cleaner, are you satisfied? Sure, you’re happy that the exchange was made, but you were inconvenienced big time. You had to take time out of your busy schedule to fight traffic, find a parking space and wait in line. And now you have to put another vacuum cleaner together. A good recovery would add something to the exchange to account for the “hassle factor”. Little Jake could say, “Ms. Smith, I’m going to give you a free package of vacuum cleaner bags as a concrete apology for the trouble you’ve experienced.”

Determine situations when you want to offer Replacement “plus.” 

Refund

There will be times when it’s more appropriate, even advisable, to return the customer’s money instead of replacing the product. Can you decide now when it will be appropriate to refund the money? Or, do you want your employees to make this call?

No compensation

There will be times when no compensation is warranted. Determining this ahead of time positions staff to respond with greater confidence and keeps them from giving the store away. 

Other

This might include a follow-up call or note to the customer.

Proactively generating best-fit solutions for your top problems positions frontline staff to respond to complaints with confidence and consistency and helps ensure decisions are made that balance both the interests of the customer and the company. If you’d like to learn more about positioning your employees to make recovery decisions that protect both loyalty and profits, consider partnering with me for consulting, training or an unforgettable keynote. Learn more at MyraGolden.com.

Myra Golden helps companies completely restore customer confidence in their brands after service failures. Considered one of the leading experts in customer recovery, she has helped hundreds of organizations rethink and redesign their complaint response processes so they are positioned to retain more customers, improve customer satisfaction, and increase profits. Myra has designed customer recovery programs for such companies as Verizon Business, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, National Car Rental, Michelin Tires and Frito Lay. She is co-author of Beyond WOW! The Service Leadership Approach to Exceptional Customer Service.

 

My Slide Deck from Today’s Keynote at GMA in San Francisco

Today I will take the stage at the GMA Consumer Complaints Conference in San Francisco. I created this very special keynote to help GMA member companies completely restore customer confidence and regain goodwill after the worst has happened. For the reference of my audience and for you, my blog readers, I am posting my slides from this presentation right here on my blog.  Download your copy of my handouts now.  Enjoy. Learn. Share.

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Myra Golden runs Myra Golden Media, a customer experience design agency that specializes in helping brands create the best possible customer experience throughout all contact channels. Myra has designed customer experience platforms for such companies as Verizon Business, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, National Car Rental, Michelin Tires and Frito Lay. She has been named one of the Top 10 Customer Service Bloggers and she is co-author of Beyond WOW! The Service Leadership Approach to Exceptional Customer Service.

How to Genuinely Apologize to Customers Without Admitting Fault

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I’m sitting in my home office doing a run-through of my slide deck for a very special keynote I’m delivering at the GMA Consumer Complaints Conference in San Francisco next week, and I thought I’d share with you one of the focal points of the keynote: How to Genuinely Apologize Without Admitting Fault.

I’m a big proponent of apologizing to customers after service failures occur, regardless of who is at fault.  It’s important to me that my clients apologize to their customers sincerely and that they don’t open their company up for liability with that genuine apology. At the GMA conference, my audience will learn exactly how to genuinely and safely apologize.  Here’s a little excerpt from my remarks. I hope this helps you.

Studies show that an apology thwarts lawsuits and amasses positive publicity. Not only that, but a genuine apology after a service failure actually strengthens a customer’s emotional bond to a company.

A sincere apology after a service failure is financially sound, and it helps organizations restore trust and regain goodwill. But many organizations steer away from apologies for fear of litigation. They fear a heartfelt “I’m sorry” is perceived as “I take responsibility.”

There is actually a big difference between an apology and a disclosure. An apology is an expression of sympathy, regret or condolence. “I’m sorry” laws adopted in 36 states protect the medical industry from litigation. Under the “I’m sorry” law, an apology is no admission of liability. While the “I’m sorry” law protects only the medical industry, all industries can benefit from learning to safely apologize to customers and in turn, reap the financial benefits of reduced litigation costs and reductions in customer defection due to dissatisfied customers.

An apology can be genuine and safe at the same time. Here are sample expressions of a sincere and harmless apology:

  •  “I’m sorry that you had to make this call today.”
  • “I’m sorry for any frustration you may have experienced.”
  • “I’m sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding may have caused you.”
  • “I’m sorry this happened to you.”

Keep these 3 tips in mind when stating your safe apology:

  1. State only the facts of the situation. (NEVER share a haunch or your opinion as to what caused the issue.)
  2. Don’t assume fault for the mishap and don’t blame others.
  3. Apologize for the impact the situation had on the customer, not the issue itself. For example, “I’m sorry for any frustration this may have caused you.”

Making an apology to customers after things go wrong is positively related to satisfaction with the recovery. Offer your customers a safe heartfelt apology after a service failure, and you will not only restore customer confidence and regain goodwill, but you should also realize the benefits of reduced litigation expenses and claim costs.

Now you can give your representatives even more great skills for delivering the best customer experience and for handling difficult customer situations. Sign up for my email list and learn specific tips, approaches, and phrases to help your employees help your customers.

Related:

The Corporate Apology in 5 Easy Steps

Sorry Works!

“I’ll fix the problem, but I will not apologize for a problem that is not my fault!”

My Client Gave Me 3 Levels of WOW Customer Service!

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Last Friday I had the great pleasure of delivering 2 half-day workshops to a wonderful new client, Silverstein Properties. Silverstein Properties is a full-service real estate development, investment, and management firm based in New York. I fell in love with this client from our first conference call. My primary contact, Andrew, has a real spirit of service. He arranged interviews for me with the principal managers so that I could indeed get to know the Silverstein culture, goals and challenges. He meticulously worked behind the scenes on so many levels to help me be great.

During my stay in New York City, Silverstein gave me super impressive accommodations in a corporate apartment. The apartment deco was just fantastic, and it felt like home away from home. I stayed at the corporate apartment the night before my workshops. During a break during the morning workshop, the head of Corporate Housing, Katrina, asked me how my stay had been. I told her how much I loved the apartment layout, interior design, amenities, concierge, and location. Katrina asked a few follow-up questions to ensure that my expectations had been met and exceeded. There was one little problem I experienced. I couldn’t get wifi. I was hesitant to tell Katrina because everything else was so fantastic and I didn’t want to “complain” about this one little thing.

The first WOW. Katrina could tell I had something to share.

Katrina picked up on my body language or hesitation and probed politely until finally, I told her about the wifi issue. She apologized genuinely and assured me she’d have the wifi taken care of before I got back to my apartment. Her response made me feel good about giving her the feedback.

The second WOW. My problem was fixed at lightning speed.

I finished the first workshop, enjoyed lunch with the participants and set up for the second workshop. Right at the start of the second workshop, a lady, Sarah, walked in, introduced herself and told me that she had just left my apartment and fixed the wifi. Apparently, a cable had been unplugged from the modem. My reaction was “WOW!” Talk about responsive!

The third WOW. Wine and Chocolate.

Then, get this, I get back to my corporate apartment, and a bottle of wine and a basket of goodies await me, along with a note from the business apartment staff.  If Silverstein treats its tenants this way, and I’m sure they do, tenants will never want to leave their properties!

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Cheesecake Factory Forgot My Key Lime Cheesecake…But then they made me smile!

On Saturday afternoon my daughter and I swung by the Cheesecake Factory for a to-go dinner in between a spa appointment and my son’s football scrimmage. I got my favorite entrée, Jamaican Pepper Shrimp, and she got a chicken dish. Because I believe in loving myself, I also ordered a slice of key lime cheesecake.

We were in such a hurry that I didn’t check to ensure our complete order was in the signature Cheesecake Factory bag. I just assumed everything was there. I was heartbroken to get home to find my key lime cheesecake was not in the bag. Our schedule was too crammed for me to go back to the restaurant and I didn’t even have time to call. I did, however, enjoy every bite of my Jamaican Pepper Shrimp dish.

The next afternoon I went to CheesecakeFactory.com and completed the Contact Form. I complimented the restaurant for a great entrée and expressed my disappointment in my missing slice of cheesecake. Yesterday afternoon I got a call from the restaurant manager. He had a contagious energy vibe that instantly made me smile and I returned the energy vibe. The manager offered a heart-felt apology and made a great personal emotional connection with business-friendly small talk. He invited me to come back in for my slice of cheesecake and if that wasn’t convenient, he said he’d put a gift card in the mail.

I opted to go to the restaurant because it’s just a couple miles from my home. When I got there, I was greeted by Mark, a warm and friendly night manager. Mark apologized and we talked about his wife’s name, which is similar to mine. Mark and the manager I spoke to on the phone handled my missing slice of cheesecake so well that I am actually glad I experienced the mishap. I’m glad because I got to see Cheesecake Factory absolutely shine at the moment of a problem. They completely restored my confidence and managed to strengthen my loyalty.

What can you learn from Cheesecake Factory’s Problem Handling?
Take my experience with Cheesecake Factory and compare it to the way your business handles mishaps and service failures. What do you like most about Cheesecake Factory’s handling of my problem? What takeaways from Cheesecake Factory might improve your service recovery efforts? Problems are really opportunities for companies to make emotional connections with customers, restore confidence and strengthen loyalty. Take a tip from the Cheesecake Factory and make the most of problems your customers experience.

How a Complaint and a $14 Earpiece Improved My Customer Experience

My business was founded to help companies completely restore customer confidence and regain goodwill after service failures occur. I tell my clients all the time that a complaint is a gift. A complaint is a gift that can help you correct problems, retain customers and improve the customer experience.

A couple of weeks ago I got a complaint from a customer. Being on the receiving end of a complaint was a little strange for me. I found myself having to practice what I preach. It was time for me to listen to my customer without offense, work to resolve the problem and regain my customer’s goodwill.

My customer told me that the audio quality of a webinar she’d just attended was far below her expectations. I was shocked. But I listened and carefully responded using the 7 practices for handling complaints that I’ve taught my clients for more than a decade.  After I felt certain that I’d effectively handled the problem and regained my customer’s goodwill, I tackled the problem.

I played the 60-minute webinar my customer attended back in its entirety. Sure enough, there were times when my voice would drop for a few seconds at a time. I immediately knew what was wrong. I had broadcasted that webinar from my iMac. I usually deliver webinars over a Dell. My Mac was directly in front of me and my speakerphone was right in front of the Mac. Every few minutes I’d glance over at my Dell, which was showing the live webinar, to ensure everything was running smoothly. Every time I looked away from my iMac, my voice would drop because I wasn’t facing the speakerphone. It didn’t occur to me that these glances were affecting my vocal quality.

My customer gave me feedback on a problem that actually affected hundreds of people the day of the live web event. She was the only customer who took the time out of her day to give me feedback. This was critical feedback. I immediately went out and bought an earpiece to connect to my phone. Now I can talk and move about without risking good voice quality. My customer’s feedback led to me making a $14 investment in an earpiece and that little investment dramatically improved my customer experience for web events.

A complaint truly is a gift. When customers give you a complaint, see this as an opportunity to correct the problem, regain customer goodwill and possibly even improve the customer experience for your customers at large.

For help with seeing complaints as gifts, see past blog posts such as:

The Corporate Apology: How to Apologize In 5 Easy Steps

Looking for complaint letter response guidelines

Sorry Works! The Bottom-line Benefit of Apologizing to Customers

Helpful Phrases For Dealing with Difficult Customers