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Win Back a Lost Customer

January 13, 2010

You’re seeing positive results, you’re getting great feedback, then BAM. Early one morning you receive a Google Alert for a blog post that seeks to ruin your entire outlook. You didn’t mean to do it, you weren’t actively seeking to upset anyone. Alas, one of your customers is disappointed with your product or service, and he wants everyone to know about it via his blog.

Although the power of the Internet can create celebrity, community, and positive buzz, it can also enhance the negative feedback significantly and give unhappy customers a larger platform on which to express themselves. Fear not, there are plenty of things you can do to turn that angry dude into a customer for life.

Identify the problem. Sometimes an unhappy customer is the result of an improper process put in place or a case of “It wasn’t my responsibility” within the organization. Ask yourself, at what point did the customer get lost in the fray? Speak with employees who deal directly with customers. Ask employees to start keeping detailed notes of their interactions with customers so that it can easily be determined later on whether or not a customer was dealt with in a satisfactory manner. Keep in mind that it is not necessarily anyone’s fault. Sometimes the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) process needs refining, and it is your job as the manager or CEO to make sure that happens.

Never blame the customer. An apology can go a long way. Please don’t try to prove to the customer that it was actually his mistake that caused the problem. I can assure you, that conversion will not go well. What good will come of you proving that, no matter how certain you are that it was his fault? I’m not saying the customer is always right, but there’s no sense in arguing, is there? If you’re serious about trying to win back the customer, listen to his concerns and acknowledge them. Then, do whatever you have to do to remedy the problem, even if it means swallowing your pride.

A Hit-And-Run Strategy Won’t Work. Once quick email to the customer does not a problem solve. Get the customer on the phone, solve the problem, then follow up to see you’ve met the customer’s expectations this time around.  Building an internal culture of accountability will greatly enhance the chances of your team following through with unhappy customers. It’s not pleasant to sit on the phone and be berated by unhappy clients, but consider it a means to an end. Sometimes turning a bad experience into an incredible one for a customer can create a raving, wall-posting, tweeting fan of your business.

No matter how big or small your business, remember the Power of One. It only takes one tweet, one email, one phone call to a friend (who happens to be the CEO of Google or something) to cause a cascade of bad press. Conversely, one happy customer can lead to lots of other happy patrons, if you do your job well. Don’t let one unhappy customer’s problem go unsolved. You never know what the long-tail effect of that will be.

Recognize employees for the things they’re doing right. If someone did make a mistake that cost you a customer, make sure you’ve been praising him or her all along for the great things they’ve done and not just reprimanding him for the negatives. He will be more open to your criticisms.

What you should do: Gather an internal group consisting of sales reps, customer service reps, and management to discuss what better CRM would mean to the organization and begin recognizing the spots in the process where customers fall through the cracks. Once you’ve identified the problems, lay out a plan and begin training all employees on the importance of CRM and how one person can have a positive or negative effect on your company’s word of mouth. Make sure everyone is aware of your organization’s CRM pot holes so they can avoid future mishaps.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2010 9:52 am

    What an insight and well thought out post, Esther. We’re currently doing ‘Win-back’ campaigns here at Pop Labs and I just sent this to our Team Leads to reiterate some points.

    Subscribed and now I wont miss a beat 🙂 You should submit to speak at IS2010! Maybe a father/daughter presentation!

    • Esther Steinfeld permalink*
      January 14, 2010 10:19 am

      Thank you Sal! I really appreciate that. How awesome that you guys are working on win-back strategies at Pop Labs. It goes a LONG way! And great idea… I just pitched it to the boss man 🙂

      • January 14, 2010 10:27 am

        Make sure you and The Boss Man are signed up for IS newsletters so you know when the submissions begin!

        I’d love to have you two come out and talk. Keep up the great work and congrats on the Stateman Award.

  2. January 15, 2010 8:57 am

    This common sense is unfortunately uncommon at most businesses. Excellent tactical article and a necessary reminder that high touch beats high tech every time.

  3. February 1, 2010 8:15 pm

    what a great site and informative posts, I will add a backlink and bookmark your site. Keep up the good work!

  4. Stacy Sims permalink
    February 2, 2010 1:13 pm

    There’s good info here. I did a search on the topic and found most people will agree with your blog. Keep up the good work mate!

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