Unhappy Customers: How to Turn a Frown into Lifelong Profit

Unhappy Customers: How to Turn a Frown into Lifelong Profit


No matter how much you focus on customer satisfaction, you will inevitably have problems with at least one of them. Just remember that when the time comes, and it always does, the customer is always right. Sure, that saying is one of the oldest clichés in the book, but for a damn good reason.

Remember that as soon as you make the customer feel they are not right, they are no longer your customer. Of course, there are some customers you might not want to keep. For now, though, let’s deal with solving customers’ problems, making them happy, and making as much money as possible from that happiness. Here are a few tips for solving problems and retaining customers:

Get close: If a customer comes into your store with a problem, your first move should be to physically move closer to the customer. Never stay behind a counter or desk. Never put a barrier between you and your customers. As you move toward the customer, reach out and shake their hand while assuring them you will take care of their problems, needs and wants. You might want to start by saying, "I’m sorry we are having a problem. Will you please tell me about it?" With these simple sentences you have now made it you and them against the problem. It is no longer them against you. If at all possible, get the customer to sit down next to you. People are not as aggressive sitting as when they are standing.

Ask plenty of questions: "Please tell me what your problem is." "Please tell me all about your…" "Please explain to me all we did/or did not do." etc.

Empathize with them: " I understand your frustration." "I would feel the same way."

Let them vent: They are upset and angry at the problem, not you. Do not take what they are saying personally. Listen intently to them as they tell their story. If they happen to use unpleasant words, so be it. Just listen and nod your head in agreement. Say things like: "We did that? Tell me more about that." Or, "Oh no, we/the product did that?" Show legit concern.

Reassure: Reassure them that you will solve their problem and fulfill their needs and wants.

Propose an action plan: Offer a solution by giving them choices. When I worked as a retailer and wholesaler and reached this point, I always decided what the most important thing was that I could do for the customer to make them happy so that I would be able to keep them as a customer and not lose money.

Fight Problem/Not Customer

Notice I said, "not lose money." I did not say "not lose pride." If you are wrong, you must admit it and fix it. Even if you are not wrong, you must take the responsibility and fix it. The seller who takes ownership of the customer’s problems will keep the customer for a lifetime of profits. Either way, the customer is always right.

I then asked the customer what I could do to correct "our" problem. Ninety percent of the time they asked for less than I was prepared to give. I then gave them more than what they had asked for. If they ask for more than you can give, counter by giving the customer a choice of three options for solving the problem. If none of the choices satisfies them, give them two or three more choices.

Offering the customer choices gives them the feeling of control. People will agree with you when they feel they are in control. When a solution is reached, touch the customer slightly on the shoulder and say positive things such as: "Good idea" or "OK, let’s continue" or "Thank you for your input." Then put your agreement in writing, sign it, and have the customer sign it. Thank them again for bringing the problem to your awareness.

Always work with a customer to solve a problem. Making it you and them against the problem is always better than them against you.

Bob Janet of Sales Growth Now provides seminars and keynotes to help companies increase sales and profits. He can be reached at 800-286-1203 and www.BobJanet.com.