React or Respond? Tips to Improve Customer Retention (Even When Things Go Wrong)

It’s not easy to keep your customers coming back even when everything goes well. You can always have the items they need in stock, offer competitive prices, and provide great customer service but you are still in daily competition with other businesses who are doing the same things. It can be a real challenge to build a loyal customer base under the best of circumstances. Throw a kink in the works and suddenly that challenge can seem insurmountable. How do you keep from losing a customer when things go wrong? You’re out of the item that they need. They found the same product for less online. They have a complaint about the service they received. Worse yet, you delivered a defective product. All is not automatically lost. Your response to each of these situations will determine whether you increase your customer’s loyalty to your business and improve your relationship with them or lose them as a client forever. 

Previously we’ve offered suggestions on technology that you can implement to improve your customer retention efforts, as well as, in-store promotions to keep your customers coming back. Use the links to visit these posts if you’d like to review. Today, we’re going to focus on how to salvage a bad situation and keep your customers.

If you are out of an item that your customer is looking for there are a few things you can do. (Of course, if you are using Stockpile small business inventory software to manage your inventory you are far less likely to run out of items.) First, offer a comparable substitute. If you stock a product that will work just as well, let your customer know. Many times they are more interested in filling a need than purchasing a particular brand of an item. If the substitute is more expensive (or if your price on the original item) is higher you can offer customers a discount to match the lower price. If you don’t have the ability to lower the price on that specific item perhaps there is another coupon or discount that you could offer. Either option is sure to increase customer satisfaction and will likely save the sale.

Service complaints and defective merchandise issues can be trickier to handle, but if addressed quickly and correctly, the damage can be minimized. The keys are to be apologetic and to offer some form of compensation. In either situation, your customers are very likely going to be upset. First and foremost, they want to be heard and to feel as though you truly care about the inconvenience they have experienced. The next thing they desire is some form of satisfaction. Simply agreeing with them that the situation is bad isn’t enough. They know that it’s bad, what they want to hear is what you plan to do to make it better. If you respond in a way that more than makes up for the slight you can turn a potential customer loss and marketing disaster into a customer-for-life cheerleader for your business.

 To illustrate this point, I’d like to share a recent experience. Today, the new washer and dryer that I ordered three weeks ago were delivered. Since my current appliances were still working I had no problem waiting for the new ones to arrive. Still, after three weeks I was excited to finally get my new machines. The installers came, removed my old appliances and put the new ones in their place. They set them both to run a short cycle and then they left. Before they got out of the driveway, I called them back because the dryer was making a funny noise. After a quick check they recommended that I do a few loads of laundry to ensure everything was working properly and they were on their way. About fifteen minutes later I realized that my new washer wasn’t doing anything. Since the manual was no help, I called the manufacturer’s customer service line. A few minutes later the diagnosis was grim. The service representative confirmed what I already suspected, my new machine wasn’t working. His answer? To offer to send a service technician (which I already knew from the recording wouldn’t be covered under their warranty) to my home to determine why the machine wasn’t working. Since the pair had literally just been installed I declined and opted to call the home improvement store I had purchased the set from. The home improvement store’s customer service representative immediately offered to order a replacement product, no questions asked. The representative also expressed her appreciation for the difficult situation this created for me and offered her apologies for the inconvenience it was causing. Unfortunately, getting a new product sent me back to the manufacturer’s representative who, while helpful in that they did schedule delivery of a new appliance, were less than satisfactory in their response as they seemed completely unconcerned by the fact that I have mountains of laundry and no working washing machine to clean them. Apparently, I should have considered the possibility that they would deliver a defective product and planned accordingly. It is somehow my fault that my brand new machine doesn’t work and my responsibility to deal with fall out.

Needless to say, I am a big fan of the home improvement store and will tell everyone I know to buy their appliances there. The manufacturer of my new washing machine? Not so much. I definitely won’t be recommending them to my friends unless this new washer just revolutionizes the way that I do laundry (once I get a machine that actually works, that is). I understand and am willing to forgive a defective product, although I do question their quality control, what I am really upset by is the way that the company wanted to charge me for a service call to diagnose the problem with an obviously defective machine and their lack of sympathy for my plight now that I am stuck waiting a week without a working washer. 

Response is key. Both the home improvement store and the manufacturer are responsible for my current situation. One handled my complaint with grace and understanding, the other seemed disinterested and unsympathetic. Ultimately, it is the manufacturer providing the replacement but I still give full credit to the home improvement store because I am under the impression that they are the reason the manufacturer is stepping up. This may or may not be the case, but it is certainly the impression I have and as you well know, perception is everything in terms of customer relationships. If you want to grow your business, you have to grow your customer base and the best way to do that is to keep your customers coming back.

Win the Customer Service Wars with Stockpile Easy Small Business Inventory Software

Stockpile can be your secret weapon in the customer service wars. Number one you won’t have to worry about suddenly running out of products. Stockpile easy small business inventory software allows you to easily keep tabs on your inventory. Better yet, you can access inventory data anytime from anywhere. Not in the office? Not an excuse. You can always see what you have and where you have it. Running low and need to transfer items from one location to another? Stockpile makes it easy. If you do need to substitute another item or return a defective product to the manufacturer, Stockpile can help with those tasks as well. You can search your stock for similar products or easily track a damaged return. Get Stockpile today, and get ahead in the customer retention game.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment