Before you read this post, I need you to make an admission. I need you to admit that you’re not perfect, that you don’t have all the answers, and that not everything that you do, build, or create works as planned. If you can’t get with me on that then I’ll just call you by your given name; Yeshua.
(See, that’s funny because… Oh nevermind.)
The point I want to make is that if you run a business, then at some point, something will go wrong–especially if customers are involved. But in every problem lies an opportunity.
In the age of social media, where every customer has a megaphone, how you handle customer complaints can make or break your business. Handle complaints well, and an irate customer can become your greatest advocate. Handle them poorly, and you risk losing many existing and future customers.
Like I said, you’ll inevitably come across a dissatisfied customer. But a small wind can easily turn into a tornado if you’re not prepared in advance to deal with complaints.
The journey of resolving customers’ problems starts long before the problem has made itself know. It actually starts before the customer-with-a-problem is a customer at all.
Which means, it starts with you and your website. Apply these four tactics to solve customer problems before they happen.
1. Make it easy contact you
It’s trendy for businesses to bury contact information on their website. The easier it is for customers to reach you, the more likely they will. And we all know how much of a time suck that can put on your team.
But it’s that same lack of contact info that is often the first trigger for an unhappy customer to launch into a war mode, with you being enemy number one.
You have to decide if having to handle a few more calls a day is worth the price of being able to resolve customer issues before they blow up in your face.
You don’t necessarily have to post your phone number at the top of every page (though that’s not a bad idea for customer-centric businesses,) but you do need to make sure your customers can contact you without going through too many hoops. Go ahead and direct them to self-help pages all you like, but don’t hide behind them.
Customers that are still deciding about whether to commit to the purchase may make a final decision based on how easy you are to contact. In fact, many people are willing to go with an inferior product or service if the customer service is better.
2. Guarantee (and deliver) quick responses
Let customers know when they can expect to hear back from you. Many websites do this after a form is submitted, but why not before? Let customers see that you will respond to every email and every form submission within x number of hours.
Posting response times as UPS does on their support page can actually help reduce the number of calls you’ll get to your business.
Many customers, if they are confident they will receive a reply, will be happy to fill out a form or send an email rather than pick up a phone to call. But you have to honor your response-time guarantee. Failure to do so will only make a bad problem worse.
My suggestion is to reply to every email or form submission within 24 business hours. 48 at the maximum. Any more than that and customers will lose confidence in your interest in resolving problems. For many, this would mean the end of the sales journey as they chose to give their business to someone more responsive.
Let customers know that you are committed to handling their issues, concerns, and questions quickly. And then follow through on your commitment.
3. Guarantee product quality
I can’t talk about product guarantees without thinking about this clip from Tommy Boy:
There is some mixed messaging going on there, but in the end, Tommy convinces the business owner that no guarantee is needed. And that, my friends, is movie magic! Since there was no sequel, I’m sure Tommy lived happily ever after.
But here in the real world, people want businesses that will stand behind their product.
Years ago, I worked for a company that sold specialty plaques that also had clocks in them. On the back of every plaque was a lifetime guarantee on the clock motor. At first, I thought that these must have been some really special clock motors that lasted forever, But then I realized that they were just guaranteeing replacement for any clock motor that failed to work.
The company surely understood that it was inevitable that someone’s clock motor would die. The law of averages guarantees it. But they got out ahead of it and guaranteed a solution should that ever happen. I have no doubt that that simple guarantee helped sell more than one of their products.
It’s not always about guaranteeing a perfect product, but guaranteeing a happy solution for your customer. How that reads is up to you.
4. Hassle-free return policies
I’m a big fan of buying products online. The less I have to leave my house, the better! But there are still some products that I would rather buy at my local retailer simply for the ease of returning it if something goes bad. In fact, returns are one of the biggest hurdles online businesses face.
Nobody likes to return things, but sometimes the hoops you have to go through to return a product you bought online makes standing in a two-hour return line feel like the least stressful option.
Which means you have to go through extra effort to make your products easy to return. Customers are already annoyed that the product must go back. The easier this process is the less likely they are to take their anger out on you via social media. In fact, making returns easy can be one of your biggest opportunities to keep customers from going postal on you!
When Business Hands You Dookie, Make Manure
$#!^ happens. But if you take some time to beef up your pre- and post-customer service, you can take that pile of dookie and turn it into manure. It might stink for a minute, but in the end, that may be the very fertile ground that helps accelerate your business growth.