Lose Customers – Here are 10 Proven Ways
by Michael Bergdahl
International Speaker, Author, & Wal-Mart Competition Authority
His Books: “What I Learned From Sam Walton” & “The 10 Rules of Sam Walton”
“To any enterprise, there are no jobs more important
than those serving its customers.” Isn’t it ironic that it takes years to build a great customer relationship but only moments
to tear one apart! There are so many ways to lose your existing customers, if you aren’t
careful in your dealings every day. I came up with these ten ways to lose your customers,
but these are by no means the exclusive list. What is interesting is that each of the ten
service points I’ve covered below can be turned around into a great way to actually
reinforce, and retain your customer relationships to make them even stronger. The
common thread I found to achieve great customer service requires staffing great people,
training them, and retraining them. It also helps to have a company culture that values
service over everything else. I suggest you review these examples with your entire
customer service team!
1. “BROKEN PROMISES” - Customers get upset when a company makes promises
that aren’t fulfilled. This has been referred to as “over-promising and under-delivering.”
Adopt the philosophy that you will always live up to the commitments you make to your
customers. Teach your customer service team, “A promise we make is a promise we
intend to keep . . . each and every time.” When someone on your customer service team
makes a commitment to one of your customers, your company must stand behind that
commitment, even when it costs you money. Admit your mistake, apologize to the
customer, and do what ever you can to make them happy. Remember this: a customer
who is unhappy with your service will tell everyone they know exactly how poorly you
treated them. Failing to live up to your commitments to one customer may end up
costing you business from several of your other existing customers! When you treat your
customers poorly you need to realize that you are driving business to your competitors!
Teach your customer service team to “under-promise and over-deliver!” 2. “SHUFFLING THE PROBLEM” – We have all experienced the frustration of
contacting a company by phone, regarding a complaint, and then being transferred from
one unhelpful person to another. “Customer shuffling” is a nasty customer service practice the employees in some companies use to avoid taking responsibility for dealing
with a customer’s problem. When this has happened to you, do you get the same feeling
that I do, that this company doesn’t really care about me, my problem, or my future
business? To solve the “customer service shuffle” your company has to create clearly
written procedures that each customer service representative must follow in order to
address common complaints. When you train your people, and empower them by giving
them the decision making authority they need to solve customer related problems, you
avoid their need to shuffle dissatisfied customers around. Empower the employee who
receives a customer complaint to follow up on it, from beginning to end. Customers are
happiest when the customer service representative (CSR) who makes the initial contact
also has the decision making authority to resolve the complaint quickly and easily. Ask
yourself this question: How important are satisfied customers to my business? The
correct answer is not only “yes they are very important”, but you should realize that
satisfied customers are the key to your past, present and future success! Don’t ever forget
that a satisfied customer is likely to return to do business with you again and again while,
unfortunately, your customers who leave dissatisfied are likely to be gone forever!
3. “POOR SERVICE ATTITUDE” – We have all dealt with customer service people who project the attitude that, “it’s not my problem.” This really makes customers angry!
When I sense this is happening to me I take action. I quickly assume the customer
service representative lacks empathy for my problem, so I immediately ask to speak to a
customer service supervisor (CSS)! I think that’s what most of do when this happens. For this reason, I believe you should have a written procedure in place describing what
your customer service team should do when a customer is extremely unhappy or irate,
and to have a procedure in place. Establish a practice of monitoring interactions between
your CSR’s and your customers. Have your customer service supervisors monitor
actually customer phone calls and do it often. Finally establish standards for customer
service and deal with employees who are rude or project an uncaring attitude to
customers. Remember: your company only gets one chance to make a first impression
on your customers so make sure that first impression is a good one!
4. “MAKING CUSTOMERS ANGRY” - I’ve gotten mad plenty of times when I have had to deal with customer service people concerning product or service related problems.
Sometimes my problem is solved to my satisfaction and sometimes it isn’t. When I am
still unhappy or angry with quality of service I received you can bet I won’t do business
with that company again, and I suspect you wouldn’t either! But some companies have a
way of calming down and satisfying even their most unhappy customers. Do your
service employees know how to do this? What do your employees do with irate
customers? Do you have a procedure in place? Show me a company where the customer
service people know how to satisfy those unhappy customers and I’ll guarantee you that
company trains its people well. Here is an idea I would recommend to you to turn
dissatisfied customers into satisfied customers. It’s called TRAINING! During the
initial orientation of newly hired customer service employees you should make sure each
member of your team is thoroughly trained on when to refer customers to a supervisor.
During the orientation, using role playing, each of the members of your team should gain
hands on experience dealing with a variety of actual service related problems that have
caused your customers to become irate in the past. With a written customer service
procedure in place, a strong orientation of new employees, and ongoing staff training
using role playing, your team will be ready to address any customer related concern.
5. “LACK OF FOLLOW-UP” – You can’t always solve every customer related problem in a matter of moments. Let’s face it, there are times when you do need to research the problem and get back to the customer at a later time. There is nothing wrong
with explaining to the customer that you need time to investigate their problem. But
when this happens be sure to make a commitment to the customer of a specific timeframe
within which you will get back to them with a response. Failure to get back to a
customer, once a commitment is made, is like telling them that their business is not very
important to you. It also sends the message that the people in your company lack
integrity. If you are going to be delayed in responding make a point of letting the
customer know. Provide updates as soon as you have them. Teach your team how
important it is to live up to their commitments to your customers and to one another.
Remember: Customers don’t want to hear excuses from a company they are trying to do
business with! Treat your customers the way that you would want to be treated! Teach
your team to follow this simple standard, “Make commitments, and then follow through
on them every time!”
6. “ALIENATING CUSTOMERS” - There is an old adage in customer service circles,
“the customer is always right!” Those of us who work in customer related jobs know this
isn’t literally true, but when it comes to our customers we act as if it were! One hundred
percent of the time, in our dealings with customers, we need to project a positive attitude,
along with respect for our customer’s point of view. It serves no purpose to argue with
our customers, and those who do come to find out the outcome is never really positive for
their business. You may win the argument now and then but you will more often than not
lose a customer. What is one customer worth? If you treat them right you may be able to
count on future business, and good word-of-mouth advertising. Argue with, and debate
with your customers, and ultimately prove your customers weren’t right, and you are likely to lose that customer for life. That’s the customer service version of “winning a
battle but losing the war!” When you work in a job where you are in contact with
customers, you can’t afford to have a “bad” day. Don’t ever forget, if it weren’t for your customers you’d be out of business. If you treat your customers poorly they’ll vote with
their feet by doing business with your competitors. Adopt the attitude that your
customers are always right, and you’re on your way to establishing customer relationships that may last a lifetime!
7. “REACHING AN IMPASSE” – From time to time, no matter how hard we try we
aren’t going to be able to satisfy every customer. Even the most experienced customer service representatives (CSR’s) run into customer related problems over which they just
have no authority. There is a way to avoid leaving the customer with a bad feeling about
your company and it involves having a simple procedure in place. The answer when this
happens is for the customer service team to get a supervisor involved in a discussion with
the customer immediately. Time is of the essence, and it is critical for your service team
to know exactly what to do. I recommend that you train your CSR’s to take the following steps:
I. Initially, your CSR should work directly with the customer to resolve the problem.
II. If an impasse is reached, ask the customer to speak with a supervisor.
III. The CSR Supervisor listens to the customer’s concern. Sometimes the process of
simply listening to the customer, and letting them vent their concerns, seems to
extinguish the size of the original problem.
IV. The CSR Supervisor attempts to resolve the problem and satisfy the customer.
V. At this point, if an impasse still exists explain as clearly as you can your
company’s policy and why an exception cannot be made. The key is to “seek
understanding from the customer, not agreement!” Often, once the customer
understands your explanation of “why”, they are more likely to accept the
decision, though they may still disagree with you.
VI. Apologize for any inconvenience the customer has experienced and thank the
customer for their business. Unfortunately, in some cases, the CSR Supervisor
and the customer will end their conversation at an impasse simply “agreeing to
Teach this procedure to everyone and post a copy of it on every bulletin board. Review it
with new employees and periodically discuss it at team meetings with your entire staff. If
your company wants to be known for having great service the key is to provide ongoing
customer service training to everyone who is contact with your customers.
8. “APATHY TOWARD CUSTOMERS” - Do you know who pays the bills at your
business? I am talking about the rent, lights, gas, electric and even your pay and benefits.
The answer is of course your customers pay all of your bills by choosing to spend their
hard earned money on your products and services. But customers can change their
buying habits, and they do it all the time. Don’t ever forget they can choose to walk
away from your business in favor of spending their money on your competitor’s products
and services. Think about that for just a moment. In fact you should think about that
every day! What are you doing to make your customers want to continue doing business
with you? Are any of the people servicing your customers taking your customers for
granted? There are plenty of alternative sources for almost every product imaginable. Is
there a compelling reason why your customers should continue doing business with you?
Think about it, talk with your service team about it, and do something about it, NOW!
9. “NON-COMPETITIVE PRACTICES” - Customers have more options for
purchasing products and services than they have ever had before. Everyone has internet
access, and they use it to compare products and services. You should make it a practice
to study the competition. Study their pricing structure for products and services against
your own. Customers don’t mind purchasing from a business for a fair price. Study
your competitor’s pricing structure and make adjustments accordingly. Don’t
underestimate the intelligence of the shoppers for products like yours in the marketplace.
People are smart and the market will dictate what you can expect to charge for your
products and services. It is important to remember that the customer expects you to make
a fair profit, but no more!
10. “MISHANDLED PRODUCT ISSUES” - When a customer makes a purchase it is
quite easy to smile and thank them for their purchase. How does your service team react
when that same customer tries to return that purchase for a refund or a replacement?
Often customer service people are well trained to sell products and collect money. Less
time is typically spent on teaching the importance of service after the sale. Your
customers will learn more about your company from the way you deal with a product the
customer wants to return to you, than they will from the way you handled their original
purchase. Do you provide service with a smile? Are you just as glad to see the customer
making a return as someone who is making a purchase? The reality is that you should
handle both transactions in the same positive manner. Some companies have restrictive
return/service policies which create bad feelings for their customers. If you treat your
customers well when they have a problem they will reward you by returning again and
again to make future purchases. If you mistrust your customers, and make them feel like
naughty children when they try to return a product, they’ll leave you, and spend their
money elsewhere! Show your loyalty to your customers by taking care of them when
they have a problem, and they will reciprocate by being loyal to your business. A good
rule to follow is this: take care of your customers, the same way you would want to be
treated under similar circumstances if the same thing happened to you!
“When you stop worrying about making money, and concern yourself with taking care of the needs of your customers, success will follow.” Michael Bergdahl
Michael Bergdahl, International Speaker, Author & Wal-Mart Competition Authority
Michael Bergdahl is a professional international business speaker, author and turnaround
specialist. Bergdahl worked in Bentonville, Arkansas for Wal-Mart, as the Director of “People” for the headquarters office.
He is considered an authority on Wal-Mart Competition, and he has appeared on CNN, CNBC, CNN FN, MSNBC, CNN International, CBS National Radio and Bloomberg TV. He has
participated in internationally televised news debates on “Power Lunch”, “On the Money”,
“Morning Call”, and “Closing Bell.” He maintains a Wal-Mart Competition Blog on his web site at: www.michaelbergdahl.net
He is also the author of “What I Learned from Sam Walton: How to Compete and
Thrive in a Wal-Mart World,” and “The 10 Rules of Sam Walton: Success Secrets for
His international keynote speaking experience includes: * Brisbane, Australia * Beijing,
China * Melbourne, Australia * Vancouver, British Columbia * Toronto, Ontario * Mont
Tremblant, Quebec * Caracas, Venezuela * Bogota, Colombia * Panama City, Panama * Cologne,
Germany * Istanbul, Turkey * Malaga, Spain * Moscow, Russia * Port Douglas, Australia *
Santiago, Chile * and across the USA.
To contact Mr. Bergdahl, call 412-635-2638 , firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website www.michaelbergdahl.net.