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How To Lose A Customer In 10 Seconds

October 25, 2022 By The Siren Of Support Leave a comment

Words without action might as well be left unsaid. Broken promises, lack of change, and a void of commitment reduce “I’m sorry”, “I promise”, and “I guarantee”, to nothing but a bunch of haphazardly placed letters. Say less but do more. Actions speak louder than words. A lack of action will cause you to lose credibility, trust, and most detrimental – customers. 

Last week, I had a customer reach out to me directly. As my role at ETE has changed this doesn’t happen as often, but I do hold near and dear a handful of customers that I built a relationship with years ago. You could say that I love them, but really I am simply committed and dedicated to the business relationship that I was fortunate enough to build over the years. 

The manual Jeep transmission had issues upon install. A replacement was required. It was going to take upwards of three weeks to get his customer back on the road. Clearly our customer, and his customer were not thrilled with the delay. Our team advised that they were sorry (even though there was nothing that individual team did wrong), they promised to keep the customer updated, and they guaranteed a satisfactory resolution.   

As the days went on and there was no replacement transmission enroute, there was no other option but to allow for the customer to request a refund and use another vendor. While this is not commonplace, it does happen. There is a process in place to handle such situations. We communicate what we need from the customer and set up the return in our systems to avoid any further unnecessary delays. The system was ready, however we failed to educate our customer on what he needed to do. 

Further delay and lack of communication led this customer to send me a seven o’clock in the evening text. We originally did not advise that we needed OUR transmission back. We did not let him know that a credit could not be processed until that return happened. The defective transmission was used for core for the new order with the other vendor. No credit could be given. 

The team now had a reason to be sorry. We did not follow up, we did not provide the necessary information, we did not resolve the issue. 

The text led to a call, which prompted me to speak with the team. Within hours the customer, and the team were well on the way to a satisfactory result. 

We all make mistakes. It’s the recovery that matters. 

What can we do to make “I’m sorry”, “I promise”, and “I guarantee”, more than just words?

  • Stop Being Sorry: “I’m sorry” doesn’t fix the problem. Too often we mutter the words in an attempt to make the customer feel validated. The customer likely does not want your empathy, even if it is genuine. They seek action. Instead of apologizing profusely and leaving the customer in limbo (I’m sorry that this is happening. It is out of my hands), energetically provide a new creative solution that actually fixes the problem (I apologize that we are facing this issue, we will do xyz to remedy it and get back to you).  
  • Follow Up and Follow Through: GET BACK TO THEM! No news is not good news. Even if you do not have a concrete update, simply letting the customer know that they are not forgotten is highly impactful in supporting your apology. The customer knows they are front of mind and that you are actively working to correct the mishap. Continue to follow up until the path forward reaches the finish line. Once the customer is satisfied, the apology holds value. 
  • Commit To the Cause: You learned something. Mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes that happen repeatedly are habits. Use the circumstance as an opportunity to get better, to grow, and to make positive change. Thank the customer for not only allowing you the chance to correct the problem but for giving you the opportunity to develop better processes and training opportunities. 

No one, and no business is perfect. Our success comes from complete honesty, long term commitment, a call to action and a side of empathy.

Even though our call to action was a bit delayed, our customer has a happy customer, and his refund. 

The impact of your actions will live longer than any words uttered. 

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