Recently I got one of those many emails promising me a peek at my credit score. Well it had been over a year and I was curious as it is always a good idea to keep tabs, so I filled out the necessary information. I know, I know, when they asked for my credit card information for a one dollar charge that would be refunded, I knew that this meant my credit card was going to be held on file so they could do auto-payments of their service. None of that was disclosed up front.Unhappy Customer
I got the credit scores, and it was expected good news. What happened next, not so much.
I got an email from Scoresense (hey I don’t want you going through this) that said I had just 7 days to cancel their service or they’d be debiting by credit card monthly for monies to “watch” my score. Now, I find this entirely unnecessary and had no intention of being dunned, so I read further for that small print about how to cancel. Lo and behold there was an 800 number. The hitch was when you called it, it insisted you give an extension and they hadn’t provided that, slippery business. So I had to go out to their site and fish for another number.
When I called, I got a telemarketer with a script. As I requested my cancellation, explaining I wasn’t interested, his pitch began. I started to steam. I wanted to cancel, NOT PURCHASE ANYTHING. By the third pitch, I was just shy of yelling at him raising my voice to shut him up, I said “don’t pitch me anything, I don’t want it. I know you are on a script, this isn’t on that script, cancel the account and further charges immediately.” He didn’t really know what to do without his script, pretty funny if I’d had my sense of humor. He maintained his sunny disposition (see below, important lesson here) cancelled and continued to ask what more he could offer. NOTHING! I felt a bit like Moses on the Mount and wanted to shout “LET MY CREDIT CARD GO.” It was this experience that triggered this post!
While we’d all like to think it won’t happen to us, service cancellations and product refunds are just a part of business today. The key is not to piss off an unhappy customer further and turn the situation into a neutral or positive instead of the negative that it is. Let’s take a look at three essentials to a satisfying conclusion for you and your unhappy customer:
#1 Don’t Take It Personally
As difficult as this can be when you are a solopreneur or the actual service provider (coach for example) don’t take this personally. Stay out of being defensive and instead be open to hearing their side of it. Explore it gently with them and make it clear your desire is a resolution that will satisfy them. An unhappy customer often isn’t unhappy with you or even your service, you have no idea what else is going on in their life and you just happen to be a handy target.
#2 Handle It With Grace and a Smile
If you follow step one this will be a lot easier. Be gracious, be open keep a smile (not a grin) on your face. It is likely this is uncomfortable for your customer and they may be expecting resistance and unpleasantness. Show them that isn’t the case and be accommodating regardless of your policies. Policies can and should be bent and even broken occasionally to salvage your customer’s goodwill. Goodwill comes before policy.
#3 Listen and Hear What Your Customer (Client) is Saying
In fact if you shut up and listen, that can often be what they want most. Give them a chance to vent over whatever it is. Remember this isn’t about you, it is all about them. By listening well and even parroting back with phrases like “so what you are saying is . . . ” or “as I understand you . . .” this shows them you are being empathetic, not sympathetic and truly hear their concerns.
#4 Skip Any Pitch
The dumbest thing you can do in the case of an unhappy customer is attempt to pitch them into another service even if it is a lesser value or cost than what they bought. I’ve had it done any number of times by large corporations with a host of telemarketers stranded with scripts and unprepared for that unhappy customer. It singularly will piss off your customer and further serve to alienate them and ensure they spread the word of their dissatisfaction.
#5 Create a Prompt Resolution
Speed is often of the essence with a dissatisfied customer. Offer a refund or cancellation post haste. Don’t make it difficult, don’t require them to jump through a lot of hoops. Deliver what they want to the degree you can quickly and with goodwill. Believe it or not, this can even lead to them wanting to do business in the future, rare but it can happen.
When you use the steps here you will deliver resolution faster, with grace, and are infinitely more likely to salvage the customer relationship. You may not get the unhappy customer back but you won’t run the risk of them spreading their dissatisfaction. It is widely known that for every one satisfied customer, they will tell one more. For every dissatisfied customer, they will tell ten more. Are you willing to risk that in an age where ten goes viral to become a hundred? I’m not.
Love to hear your stories of unhappy customers (clients) and how you handle it. And always connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. You matter to me!