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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

Exclusive Blog Posts

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Why Buy Messaging Isn't Just A Catchy Slogan. Start Use Your Most Valuable Asset.

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Can an Unhappy Customer Be Convinced to Return?

Statistics exist all over about happy customers. The J.D. Power Customer Service Index Study is one that provides valuable insight into areas of improvement as well as areas that have seen awesome growth. From those stats, we all know that happy customers are customers that will return for paid service, and that’s more than two thirds of customers.

But the statistics don’t get down in the trenches. They give an overview of areas that need improvement, but they provide the tools to get the job done. And of course, there’s the factor of the unknown. Unhappy customers usually don’t respond – they just leave and don’t come back.

The ticked-off customers that don’t say anything are difficult to address, simply because you don’t know they’re unhappy. But occasionally, you’ll get a CSI survey returned that expresses displeasure and “Will Return in the Future” is checked off as “definitely will NOT”. Those customers are not yet lost, but they’re an opportunity to create a loyal client.

How So?

If a customer has specifically told you they won’t be returning because they are unhappy, it’s usually because someone did something wrong, or didn’t do something they should’ve. That sounds to me like an opportunity at redemption. Take it while you can because you don’t get many chances at it, and certainly, at most, only once per customer.

If at all possible, do it verbally on the phone. It’s a level of connection that isn’t achieved in non-verbal communication. Otherwise, draft a well-written email to them.

Own the Problem

It’s the toughest thing to do in the automotive industry where most customer-facing staff are type-A personalities. Acknowledging failure doesn’t come easy, but it’s necessary.

Acknowledge the customer’s concern, summarizing the issue that has upset the customer. But it’s not enough to just acknowledge – you must apologize. You’ve allowed the customer to leave your store unhappy once. At minimum, it’s your fault for not correcting the concern before the customer’s visit was over.

You’ve disarmed the customer by taking ownership of the problem. They’ll keep listening to you now.

Explain What Should Have Happened

Your store’s policies and procedures dictate how certain situations should be handled. If you have an unhappy customer, there’s likely at least one thing that wasn’t followed to the letter. In that way, explain to the customer that you should’ve asked the advice of your manager/made your follow-up call as promised/detailed the estimate better/arranged the shuttle immediately, or what have you.

If the customer knows there’s a proper way of doing things but it wasn’t followed this once, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to earn their business back.

Promise to Do Better

If you’ve told the customer what you should’ve done, the next step is to tell them that you’ll do what should be done next time. By making that commitment, you’re beginning to turn the conversation to the future – their next visit to your store.

And with your commitment to improving yourself, it’s time to ask the question: “Can I ask you for another opportunity to earn your business?”

Do Better

Some customers will truly come back for another shot. Others may say they will and never set foot in your store again. For the ones return, follow through on your promise. Do better.

Elevate your customer service experience by owning customer concerns. It takes a big person to swallow their pride and accept blame for an unhappy client, even if it seems trivial or actually isn’t your fault. But if you’re able to walk through the problem with a customer, own it, and promise to improve, there’s a strong possibility they’ll return as a loyal customer.  

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