When I was Vice President of Sales for a New York based computer services company, I walked by one of my salesperson’s desks when the phone started ringing and picked up the phone to answer the call. It was one call that tested my customer service skills.
It was a call from a Senior Vice President for Chase Manhattan Bank, NA She was not happy with the service our representative was giving her and said she was considering going to another vendor for her computer services. I let her talk as she vented her anger.
I reintroduced myself and let her know that I would personally appreciate her sharing her customer service concerns with me. I also let her know that we valued her as a customer and wanted her business and that I would do whatever it took to make her happy with our company. She then let me know that someone better “make her happy” by the end of the day or we could forget about doing business again with Chase Manhattan Bank. I let her know I could personally see her in one hour, and she agreed to the meeting.
I put together the solution and took the #4 subway line to Wall Street to meet at her office. As I waited in the lobby of her building for an elevator, five women gathered around me to also wait for the elevator. The elevator arrived and we all walked into the elevator. I took the initiative and greeted the group of women and commented on the weather. This opened up the conversation between all of us and soon, with additional exchanges, we were laughing about our day.
I left the elevator, and one of the women also got off on the same floor. I asked her where the Senior Vice President’s office was located, and she said she would be happy to take me to the office. We continued our engaging conversation along the way and, before I knew it, we were at the Senior Vice President’s office door.
I was about to thank the woman for escorting me, when she walked around and behind the Senior Vice President’s desk and announced that she was the Senior Vice President and how she could help me. Let’s say I was surprised. I introduced myself, we both paused for a moment, and then we both laughed.
To say the least, we had a very productive meeting, which led to a great customer relationship with Chase Manhattan Bank and her for many years and with the bank even beyond her retirement. She was so impressed with her positive experience that day that she became my biggest advocate to other senior management within the bank, which led to new customers and millions in additional business.
What, then, are the secrets to customer retention and winning back an angry customer so that the situation becomes an outstanding customer service experience?
The following are six customer service secrets for winning back customers, increasing customer satisfaction, and increasing your bottom line:
- Start with a Positive Attitude – Look at any customer service situation as a challenge and an opportunity to learn and grow, and take care of the customer’s needs. Start with a positive attitude that says, “I want to help you and, together, we will find a solution.” I always say, “You never know who is watching you, so always give them your best face.” Because I had a positive attitude in the above situation, I put on my best face when interacting with the women in the elevator, and this led to a positive impression of me with the senior vice president.”
- Listen with Empathy – Put yourself in the customer’s shoes, experience his/her pain, and communicate to the customer that you understand the pain. You can communicate your understanding of their pain by saying, “Thank you for sharing your concerns with me. If I were in your shoes, I would feel the same way.”
- Take Ownership – Don’t make excuses for what happened with the customer. Apologize and take ownership for what happened with the customer. The sooner you take ownership of the customer service challenge, the sooner you can take ownership of the customer service solutions.
- Communicate Your Plan of Action – Let the customer know what you are willing to do to take care of his/her concerns. The customer becomes frustrated when he/she feels uninvolved or uncertain as to what you are planning for the customer service solution. Ask for the customer’s commitment to the plan before proceeding with the action. My plan of action started when I told the customer that I was going to take the subway immediately to meet with her, and the complete customer service plan was communicated during our first meeting.
- Take Action – The most important customer service secret is taking action. You can go through all the other customer service secrets and if you don’t take action, all your actions and credibility are lost. You increase customer retention when you make sure you deliver more than what is promised. Act quickly, act with a quality solution, and act with integrity.
- Ask for the Business – During the customer service challenge, I expressed several times that I valued and wanted her business. This let’s the customer know that you don’t take his/her business for granted. It’s even more important that you express to the customer that you want his/her business after the customer service situation is resolved. You can also give an extra incentive to the customer for acting now to continue giving you the business. It can be as simple as a discount coupon or some other special offer.
Apply these customer service secrets with your customers and you will increase customer satisfaction and customer retention and win back customers to increase your bottom line.