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How to Turn Your Biggest Detractor Into Your Biggest Brand Ambassador

A bad customer experience can be a chance to turn your harshest critic into your brand's biggest fan. Capitalize on the opportunity through stellar communication and service.

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You’ve probably heard a million marketers or service representatives say it: “If you like our service/product, tell others about us!”

But what if a customer doesn’t like your service/product? What if they have a bad experience? 

Bad experiences happen even to the most beloved of the best companies. Fortunately, detractors – the people who usually drag down your overall customer satisfaction scores – aren’t lost as advocates for your brand. You just have to respond properly to their poor experience to turn their perspective around and get your scores back up.

Related: This Is Why You Should Never Ignore Customer Feedback

What you need to do to inspire a pivot

Every unhappy customer is going to come to you with slightly different circumstances. In that sense, there’s no perfect script for transforming them into an ambassador. But all most customers really want is to feel genuinely heard and to know that you are doing whatever is in your power to fix the issue. 

So at the absolute least, acknowledge that they’re having a hard time and that you’re sorry for what they’re going through. This isn’t necessarily admitting you did anything wrong. It’s simply being empathetic to where they are in the moment so that the temperature of the conversation lowers enough for the rest of the interaction to be constructive.

Once the detractor knows that you’re on their side and willing to listen, ask as many questions as you can to make sure you understand exactly what the problem is. Offer whatever you can to show good faith. Throughout the whole customer service process, maintain good communication. Even a quick email update or follow-up can make a difference in whether the customer perceives you as being invested and connected to them.

In essence, it’s not so much about what happened, although you do have to get to the root of that. It’s much more about how much effort you put into repairing any damage afterward. In an increasingly global market where dozens of businesses can provide the exact same thing you do, it’s this effort, the quality of your customer service, that becomes a differentiator, builds loyalty, and provides future opportunities. 

Related: How to Make Negative Feedback Work For You

Great service doesn’t just save companies – It can direct entire industries

The concept of winning back detractors through excellent response and service applies to any business where the customer has a recurring relationship. It’s in these relationships where the customer’s expectation that you’ll have their back is higher. Some industries provide very good examples of the difference great customer service can make after a problem. Airlines are good models because they frequently have to deal with issues like overbooking, lost luggage, and so on. Banks are good models as well. 

Some of today’s most famous companies have set new standards through their approach to customer service. Amazon, for instance, developed Amazon Prime to improve the customer experience through reduced wait times, and they established a clear no-questions-asked return policy. As a consequence, other companies involved in online selling began to offer similar policies and shipping times to compete. 

When you look at your own brand, remember the power service has to reshape standards. Try to be the business that sets the trend, rather than the company that responds to it.

Related: Strategies for Dealing With Negative Feedback. And Benefiting From It 

If you listen and take action, a loyal base is yours for the taking

Business leaders often put a lot of effort into getting happy customers to be “free” spokespeople. It’s not a horrible strategy, because word-of-mouth advertising really does work. But don’t abandon those who have had something go wrong. Addressing their bad experiences in an empathetic way can do a lot to repair your relationship. In fact, because being served well can be such an emotional experience for the typical customer, it’s one of the best ways to build loyalty. So watch your feedback and take care of your customers. Then, stability and growth can follow.

Sumit Aneja

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Sumit Aneja is the CEO of Voxco, an omnichannel software survey platform and a global market leader in the multi-modal survey software sector.