Turn an Awful Customer into an Advocate
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of addressing the Senior Leadership class at Georgia Tech. The class was composed of young, bright, energetic, gifted, and really, really smart young men and women. We’re talking chemical engineers, pre-law, pre-med, MBA’s, and a slew of other difficult majors that my college guidance counselor wouldn’t have wasted her time even mentioning to me.
Due to their age and the time-frame of their rearing, these remarkable, future leaders, find the issues of Customer Service much more difficult than derivative calculus. It’s a new deal to them and a topic they really don’t know about and haven’t learned about.
At some point in the middle of my presentation, the issue of dealing with disgruntled customers came up. I was trying to explain that sometimes the frustrated, angry customer, can end up being one of your strongest advocates IF you handle things correctly.
The point I was trying to make was that customer discontent most often arises from a legitimate complaint stemming from a poor performance by the service provider. If you just give the customer a chance to get their ya-yas out and listen, things turn out fine about 90% of the time—and the other 10% can be remedied with additional effort, or a few bucks. In fact, an unhappy customer that experiences an attendant who is contrite and helpful in resolving the problem can turn quickly from a rattlesnake to a lamb. Additionally, an unhappy customer, left unhappy, can do more damage to the brand and image of a company that can ever be overcome by spending millions on self-praising advertising.
Don’t believe me? Throw a passenger off an airplane and see if advertising saves your rep.
I explained a personal experience with a confrontational customer I encountered while in the mortgage business. The payoff on this gentleman’s old loan was $1,400 higher than his old lender estimated and he proceeded to raise hell at the closing in front of both realtors and the seller. He pointed the finger at me stating that it was MY fault, even thought I had nothing to do with it . Payoffs on the previous home are in no way a responsibility of the new lender.
I ended up eating the $1,400 chalked it up to advertising. The realtors saw me as a hero because the closing went forward and they got their commissions and the seller financed his new home with me. The (formerly) frustrated customer referred 13 people to me that worked for him for purchase financing and refinancing — telling them I could work out the toughest situations.
The difference between my company and my competition? My competition would never had seen this as an opportunity.
My staff was furious with me. That said “why did you do that Paul?! That guy was a creep!”
Well the creep melted away when I spend a few dollars to remedy what could have been a ‘thrown off the airplane’ type mess. He was manager of a large company, and with one single email to his staff, he could have vilified my mortgage company. So I did what I had to do and he became one of my biggest advocates and a constant referral of business. I assure you my competition would have told this guy to take a hike.
Instead, we won the day.