Inform Them, Satisfy Them, Retain Them!
No matter how hard you try to have every project run smoothly, on-time, and on-budget, sooner or later, you screw up. No matter how hard you try to satisfy every customer on every sale, sooner or later someone will be dissatisfied. Maybe one of your vendors ships the wrong item to you causing you to run late, maybe a color or a taste or a size is a smidge wrong, maybe the computer goes down at a crucial moment, a staff member has a family emergency, a vehicle or piece of machinery breaks down or something else untoward happens to cause your customer to be very unhappy. Let’s face it, stuff happens.
Handle it wrong or try to cover it up, and you’ll probably lose a customer forever (and they will tell everyone they know about it) however there is a high probability they will stay with you if you handle problems in a forthright, businesslike, customer-centric manner. The key to retaining them is the way you and your staff handle your “damage control.” Your customer will respect you if you honestly explain the problem, tell them how you will resolve it, and inform them of your progress at every step along the way, including a follow-up after the project or product is delivered.
Some people might consider this overkill; I call it good customer service and one (but certainly not the only one) to customer retention.
Realize that your advertising, your marketing, and your sales process all work to tell your customers and prospects how good you are, how you are dedicated to satisfying them, and all those “under-promise and overdeliver” clichés amplify your statements into promises. They are expecting you to satisfy them and deliver on those promises.
So, when something goes south, no matter whether it is your fault or something way beyond your control, it’s really time to make good on those promises.
Clearly keeping the customer informed with timely progress updates reinforces the fact that you value their business and want to continue serving them. Your “damage control process” shows your understanding of their concern and informs them that you are doing everything possible to rectify the situation. When it is all over, send them a note or a small gift to celebrate… it will be better next time… and if you do it right, there will be a next time because you have worked hard to inform them, ultimately satisfy them, and retain them.
Question or comment to Larry: firstname.lastname@example.org