Three Ways to Succeed With Second Chance Customer ServiceBy Laura Petrolino

I’m the customer you either love or hate.

If you treat me well I will sing your praises from the roof top.

I’ll call people, write letters, write reviews EVERYWHERE, and tell everyone I know to use you.

If you treat me poorly however, I will do the exact, same thing.

I’ll call people, write letters, write reviews EVERYWHERE, and tell everyone I know that you, well… stink.

I’ve gotten people promoted, increased customers significantly, and made organizations I like a fair amount of money. But I’ve also gotten people fired, cost companies customers, and caused a fair amount of expense for those that treated me (and others) poorly.

Second Chance Customer Service

I believe every organization deserves a chance to redeem themselves. Everyone makes mistakes, has bad days, or messes up. It happens and I understand that. I am not going to throw any person or organization under the bus because they made a misstep or had an off day. Those that take that second chance can rather quickly go from my hate list to my love list.

Amazingly, however, very few organizations do so successfully. And that’s what we are going to talk about today: Second chance customer service.

There is almost always an opportunity to right a wrong to a customer (whether that wrong be real or imagined on the customer’s part). The secret is being aware when these openings are presented to you and taking them.

I make it pretty obvious when it comes to these opportunities. I’ll normally call company owners or the highest level I can reach and ask to discuss my recent service. I’ll do this prior to “unleashing” the PetroPower, because I want to give them a fair chance to explain or redeem themselves.

Lesson One: Communicate

If a customer calls with a complaint, call them back.

Don’t ignore it, don’t email them, don’t text them. CALL them.

In fact, even if a customer emails or writes you first with a complaint, it is always the best policy to give them a call.

This is important because communications is key at moments like this, taking the chance of email communications being misunderstood is risky at best and stupid at worst. But most importantly, reaching your customer with a voice makes you a human, as opposed to a nameless, faceless, “evil” brand.

For me, a phone call from the company is enough to right the wrong. Sometimes I just want to be heard and let them know that there was a problem. But sometimes, I want to find a solution to make it better.

Lesson Two: Solve the Problem

Provide a solution. And offer it first. Listen to what the problem is, but more importantly listen to what has actually upset the customer. More often then not it won’t be what happened, but how it was handled or some other peripheral issue.

You want to listen, ask questions, and then keep listening until you feel confident you know what the biggest issue causing upset. Then provide a solution for that.

Once you have an agreed upon solution make it super easy for the customer to take advantage of it. This shouldn’t be an obstacle course rewarding the customer that survives.

If you aren’t sure what solution will be best, ask the customer.

If you go this route, be prepared. You might be setting yourself up for failure if the customer requests a solution that you can’t or won’t provide.

Lesson Three: Apologize

Say, I’m sorry.

How many times have you been told this? Zillions! But it bears repeating because it is so important.

Often people push back with “I’m not going to apologize because that’s admitting we were at fault and we weren’t.”

Remember that no matter where the fault lies, the customer is upset and feels inconvenienced or taken advantage of in some way. That alone is worth an apology.

I can’t tell you the number of times organizations that have had stellar second chance customer service have won me over and turned me from a detractor to a brand advocate.

What other tips would you add to these?

Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.

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