Dealing with Difficult People: Unhappy customers

It’s easy to let angry customers walk out the door after you make a mistake. And sometimes, they’re going to leave no matter what you do to try and keep them. But successful businesses know that service recovery is one of the most important elements in customer retention. By following a few simple steps, you can turn upset customers into loyal, happy ones.

The Walt Disney Company is known for being a masterfully run company. In everything from logistics to leadership and marketing, Disney is looked at as a model business for others to learn from and emulate. In fact, businesses pay many thousands of dollars to send their employees to the Disney Institute to learn the company’s insights. And with more than 135 million people passing through the company’s parks and resorts each year, Disney has perfected the art of customer service recovery to create happy and loyal customers.

Their approach to service recovery is a five-step process, easily remembered with the acronym H.E.A.R.D:

• Hear

• Empathize

• Apologize

• Resolve

• Diagnose

1) Hear: Let the customer tell their entire story without interruption. Often when we’re upset, we just need someone to listen.

2) Empathize: Empathy is one of the most critical customer service skills you can possess. It’s the ability to deeply understand the thoughts and emotions of your customer, and making sure that they know that, too. You can use phrases like “I’d be upset too” or “I can see why you’d be frustrated.”

3) Apologize: As long as it’s sincere, you can’t apologize enough for screw ups. In one study at the Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, 37% of customers were satisfied with service recovery when they were offered something of monetary value (e.g., a refund or credit). But when the business added an apology on top of the compensation, satisfaction doubled to 74%.

4) Resolve: Resolve the issue quickly. This can only be done if your employees have the authority to do what it takes in terms of compensation, so make sure you’re empowering your team to act. If you’re not sure exactly what sort of compensation or resolution would be appropriate, ask the customer: What can I do to make this right? By showing an eagerness to do right by them, you can begin to bridge the gap between your customer’s dissatisfied state and where you want them to be.

5) Diagnose: Once the customer is satisfied, get to the bottom of why the mistake occurred, without blaming anyone. Remove any personal guilt and examine the processes related to the service failure. Returning customers will appreciate your efforts to improve the experience.

Customer Service Misses Are Opportunities, Not Outcomes.