It is not very often that I get on a rant about something. The issue has to be extremely serious for me to even get the slightest worked-up over it. For those vendors who can call me a client, they know that I am a loyalist until things get so bad I can’t stand it anymore. As a business owner I know that feedback is very important, even when it is not pleasant. Recently I had an experience with a professional service I’ve done business with for a long time. While I prefer to keep the details to a minimum I have determined that there are several things that make up the kiss of death in losing a client.
1) Don’t hold a heated discussion out in the open where other clients are able to listen. This not only embarrasses the staff member and the customer but it infects the other clients who are listening. Disagreements aired openly in an organization can plant viral seeds that are damaging to the organizations image.
2) Don’t use statements like: It’s not our policy. The reason you have customers is because you have solutions to their problems. Your job is to dispense solutions. The client before you – their greatest problem is getting their issue resolved by YOU. Telling them it is not your policy to meet their needs only alienates the customer. The customer may not always be right but you don’t need them to know that. Rather than stating the “not our policy” response you should try other approaches. An answer like, I am not sure what we can do to meet your needs but let us look at all of our options and select the solutions that will best meet your needs.
3) Creating a friendly and welcoming atmosphere will set the right tone in any situation. When your staff is friendly and welcoming, even in the face of challenges, it defuses the client’s agitation. It has been my experience that when the staff is not friendly it is a symptom of a deeper organizational culture problem.
4) If a client raises concerns about the way they have been treated, don’t respond with platitudes and disinterest. Empathy is a much better approach. This person is likely giving your organization a gift by telling you there is a problem. If your response to them is in a defensive or disinterested tone you will lose them. If you speak over them or interrupt them – you’ve lost them.
5) Changing the rules while the game is in play is a sure way to discourage a client from returning. Don’t set expectations and then in mid play, change the rules. This includes changing prices on the client. Don’t quote one price only to change it several times. It creates an image that you are trying to scam the client (even if the reality is your not). A sure way to lose a client to make them feel like their are being taken advantage of. Setting the clearest f expectations is always your best policy!
There is a great book out titled: Raving Fan. It is an excellent book that outlines some of the key areas an organization should focus on to create a client who is a raving fan. The long and short of it is this: If you’re not creating Raving Fans, you’re creating something disastrous to the brand of your company. People will remember their bad experiences and want to tell everyone they know about them. Word of mouth works both ways, but the most detrimental to your company is always negative press.
The customer may not always be right in what they are asking for – but rest assured they will always be right if they believe that they are being treated less than they ought to be. If your organization seeks excellence – it must include an obsession with great customer service.
To determine if you have organizational problems, I would suggest participating in a cultural assessment. This and other assessments will help identify problems within the organization that must be dealt with. Ignoring these problems could ultimately be the death of a once great brand.
What are you doing to keep your customers, what are you doing to run them off.
Philip A Foster, MA is Founder/CEO of Maximum Change Inc. Elevating leaders and their organizations to the next level since 2005. Master Certified Coach, Philip A Foster, MA and his associates facilitate effective positive change by helping organizations, leaders and individuals in high demand — design and implement strategies that maximize focus and deliver results. Specializing in Organization and Strategic Leadership.