How to Keep Your Customers Happy (Even If They're Wrong) Customer satisfaction and retention are both necessary for any business's success.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Knowing your customers and putting them first is fundamental to any growth strategy. More and more, companies use approaches like dynamic segmentation to learn who their customers are and to market and communicate in highly targeted and more cost-effective ways to specific groups. Those types of strategies make it obvious that not all buyers are created equal and show how important it is to measure what matters. Yet, sometimes customers are unhappy even when you've done everything well.
However, it is possible to improve customers' attitudes and get them back in your court if you proactively address the problem. Remember that your customers are always looking to be delighted, but they do want interactions to be fast, easy and accurate every time.
1. Get ahead of the issue
It wasn't that long ago that research indicated dissatisfied customers would tell ten people about their negative experience and only two about their positive experience. But today, in the digital age, people can share their experiences with thousands of people in just seconds. That's great if a customer wants to praise you, but the reality is that customers who have a bad experience are 50% more likely to share it on social media than those who have had good experiences. Customers also expect companies to respond to their social-media engagement quickly. Therefore, it's important to try to respond to reviews and social media posts often to inspire confidence, meet expectations and keep the bad press from spreading.
2. Dig deep
Sometimes, a problem a customer brings up has a much deeper root cause. Look at all your processes and the many interconnected points of the customer journey to see where the main source of the issue really lies. During this analysis, remember that onboarding is arguably the most tender and formative time in your relationship with your customer, and being more hands-off portrays a lack of sophistication.
After identifying the problem, fix it and aim for long-term solutions that address the source. Let the customer know how you've taken care of the issue. This will reassure your unhappy customers that the likelihood of having a bad experience again is low. They need this reassurance more than they need to be pacified in the moment if they're going to trust you over time.
3. Communicate well
Transparent, honest communication is especially important when buyers have complaints because you need to rebuild rapport with them. A complaint is an opportunity to learn and improve. Customer feedback is always valuable. Tell customers what you're doing to solve the issue and give regular progress updates. Craft responses that are truly empathetic and establish customer-listening programs that ensure two-way discussion between your business and your buyers.
Good communication also involves a clear apology. Even if you still have to do some analysis to figure out what's causing their problem or don't feel like you've made a mistake, you can acknowledge and apologize for their frustration. In this way, the apology isn't always just about owning an error. It's also about making sure customers feel seen, heard and understood.
Related: 2021: The Year of the Customer
4. Rethink your processes to utilize more automation to your advantage
These days, it's not a matter of how much data you can get. It's about getting the right data. Automation can help you do that. Look at your operations and see where you can let technology work for you. This way, you not only can be more aware of potential problems and solutions sooner, but you can also reserve your human resources for the higher-touch, more complex interactions you'll have inside your customer service.
Additionally, keep in mind that it doesn't feel good to the customer if the only time they interact with you is when they have an issue or get a bill. Automated processes, such as alert or follow-up emails, can help you create new inflection points that add value. These new points can help customers see their overall experience as positive, even if they have to bring a complaint to you. Automated processes can also support customer-listening programs, such as tracking social media for specific keywords from customers.
You can be proactive about keeping customers satisfied
The number one goal for most companies is to deliver on quarterly earnings and financial targets; it is not making customers happy. But customer satisfaction directly influences the financial performance of the business, and the key to meeting financial goals and driving the right behavior is tying the right customer metrics to your financial outcomes internally.
It's critical for leaders to understand that they cannot afford to crawl into the relative safety of their industry verticals. Thanks to increasingly advanced technologies, it's easier than ever for customers to share their experiences, and "word of mouth" has become "world of mouth." With companies like Amazon creating spaces where customers see and buy all types of products in one swoop, companies now have to think horizontally and be more aware of how people shop to address their needs. They must grasp that consumers, not brands, have control and that reputational risk is real.
Customers may not always be right, but they're always the customer. If a customer comes to you and complains, even if he or she is wrong, don't sit on your hands. Use the opportunity to create a deeper connection, leaning on the four strategies above to improve the experience. If you can do that consistently with real empathy, your customer satisfaction and loyalty will lay a fantastic foundation for future growth.