How to overcome failure with loyal customers
If the first universal truth of a successful business is that you must please your customers, the second universal truth is that you’re going to fail at it sometimes. It is impossible to keep everyone happy all the time.
In our modern world of customer retention, we know that customers won’t hesitate to take their concerns public. Millions of reviews on websites like PissedConsumer.com show clear evidence that customers aren’t shy. They take their complaints about customer service very seriously. When you mess up – and remember, you’re going to mess up – you need to have a plan to overcome that customer service failure.
While every business has differences, there are some striking similarities, even across industries.
- Loyal customers want to stay loyal.
- Mistakes will happen, so be proactive about them.
- You can use negative reviews to your advantage.
Loyal customers want to continue to be loyal
If you have loyal clients, they know what to expect from your company, typically, and they prefer to do business with you.
When you mess up with repeat customers, their consumer loyalty may be called into question, but it’s not immediately gone. Brand loyalty isn’t that fickle, in most cases.
However, when you make a mistake with dedicated customers, they are likely to feel betrayed. For some of these customers, they will take the issue quite personally, and that is where you find such passionate customer reviews online – these customers aren’t just angry, they are hurt.
To address an issue with a betrayed, loyal customer, you can’t just throw a form letter at the issue and hope it will go away. These customers are invested. You need to be invested, too.
Create a strategy for mistakes before mistakes happen
Customer loyalty will buy you a bit of time when issues happen, but you still must move quickly. You’ve offended a customer and he’s hurt. He trusted your brand and is now feeling betrayed. You need a proactive strategy.
While every strategy will and should vary by company, keep a few key elements in mind.
- Focus on the relationship.
Personalised relationships are critical for loyal customers. They want to feel that you respect and appreciate their patronage, and you show this by offering personalised elements, friendly recognition, and cheerful human interaction as much as possible.
When a problem comes up, this isn’t an irrational stranger – this is a friend who has her feelings hurt. If you accidentally hurt your friend’s feelings, you wouldn’t ask her to call you and wait on hold for two hours only to be transferred three times before the call is dropped. You want to respect that friend and her concern, no matter how silly it seems to you, with a listening ear, sympathetic murmurs, and a plan to make things better.
- Keep watch for issues across multiple platforms.
You can’t fix things if you don’t know they are there. Keep an eye open across as many platforms as possible for issues.
Monitor your social media accounts and check the comments on those posts – they are public, after all. Look for mentions of your company (with all various spellings) across every review website. Set up Google alerts to keep you posted to every mention of your company, both good and bad, and be ready to pounce immediately with your resolution plan.
- Control the spotlight.
When your company is called out in online reviews or comments on social media, the worst thing you can do is hide. You’re already in the spotlight – even if you feel you were wrongfully drug into it – and now it’s yours to control.
It’s time to execute your customer service savvy in full view of the world. You will not only be in control of the situation, but you can also use it to create a terrific outcome for you and your frustrated customer.
- Put negative reviews to work.
Negative reviews provide valuable if uncomfortable, feedback. You can’t tell a customer what their experience was or how they are feeling, you can simply react to what they are telling you.
Your responses will be public and that is to your advantage. Customers enjoy watching companies navigate these waters. Just like we judge people by how fair and understanding they are, we just companies in the same way.
Making a public apology, empathising with the customer in full view of those invested in the story, and working with the customer to make it right can be extremely powerful.
Customers know that companies aren’t perfect. They don’t really expect perfection. What loyal customers want is to know how much you value their loyalty and problem solving publicly is the perfect way to do just that.
I'm a Head of Marketing at PissedConsumer.com, a review platform and consumer advocacy website. I’ve worked in the marketing area for over 14 years and have gained extensive experience in communication with businesses, customers, and media representatives. Aside from helping customers be heard, I also intend to help businesses improve their...