Large companies often judge how customers feel about them by using something called a Net Promoter Score (NPS) – They simply ask the customer how likely they would be to recommend them to a friend.  The score is generally 1-10.  Anything less than 8 is a failure.  8-10 are promoters,  1-6 are detractors, and 5-7 are ambivalent.

Here’s an interesting fact:  Customers who had a perfect experience and never had to contact the company are less likely to be promoters than customers who had a problem, and got it resolved to their satisfaction.

Customers who had a problem solved are bigger promoters than those who had a perfect transaction.

Every customer e-mail you get is an opportunity to create a loyal fan of your product who will recommend it to their friends.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to take full advantage of that opportunity.

1. Treat every customer as if they’re telling the absolute truth

If you think about the brands out there that have the most customer loyalty, one of the things you’ll notice is that they assume the customer is honest.  They take returns and issue refunds without giving the customer hurdles to jump over, or asking a bunch of questions.

The most popular online community in the world, Reddit, has an entire subreddit dedicated to companies that have lifetime guarantees called “buy it for life”.  These If you send these companies a broken product, they fix or replace it, and send it back to you free of charge.

If you look at Amazon or E-Bay forums, you’ll see post after post of sellers who are convinced they did nothing wrong, their product was perfect, and the customer is just scamming them.  They’re building short term businesses.

On the buyer side, Amazon is notorious for great customer experiences.  Customers spend money with Amazon because they know they’re protected if something goes wrong.  One of the major reasons for this is that is that Amazon will more often than not issue a full refund without even asking for the product in return.  They trust their customers.

That’s it.  That’s the secret to Amazon’s success.  They’ve built gobs of trust with customers, so customers go there first to shop.

Sure, you’re going to get burned by a scammer every once in awhile, but Amazon figured it out.  They know that this is just one of the costs of doing business.

2. Take Ownership of Issues

Nothing turns a customer off faster than making excuses.  This is one of the hardest lessons to learn, because no one likes to do something wrong.  Our instinct is to explain the problem to the customer and why it happened.  From the customer perspective, they don’t care what happened to cause the problem, they just want it fixed.

Getting defensive or making excuses communicates to the customer that you’re not secure in your abilities or your product.

The absolute last thing a customer wants is the problem blamed on them.  Even Especially when it’s really their fault.

Here are some examples of problems, and how to take ownership:

The product broke!

“I’ll send you a replacement immediately.  Can you send me more details or photos so I can investigate the rest of the production run to ensure no other customers are impacted?”

It didn’t fit because I bought the wrong size.

“I’m sorry it didn’t fit, I’ll send you the correct size immediately.  I’ll also review our sizing charts and where they’re placed so it’s easier for customers to find the right size.”

It doesn’t smash garlic like it should. (You think the customer is doing it wrong)

“Hi Mr. Customer, sometimes it’s a bit challenging at first.  Here are a few tips to get you going.  If this doesn’t work, let me know and we can get this resolved for you” (Next Step: Issue refund and/or send replacement) 

The holes are too small and garlic doesn’t go through it! (product is poor quality)

“Mr. Customer, I’m so sorry that it isn’t working the way you expect it to.  I’ll issue a full refund immediately.  I would like to investigate further to make sure more customers aren’t effected, could you send the product back to me? Here’s a shipping label to make it easy.  Just put it in the mail box.”  If the customer can’t ship, or you just want to see “Could you shoot me a couple photos of the product? I want to better understand what is happening so I can check our production process.”

By the way, if the holes really are too small, and it doesn’t work, STOP SELLING THE PRODUCT.  You don’t want to be that guy, selling garbage on amazon.

3. Exceed their Expectations

Notice in all of the examples I seemed to over-react to the situation.  Here are a few ways I like to exceed customer expectations:

  • Immediately issue a refund without making the product return a condition.  I often ask for the product, just so that I can examine it to ensure there isn’t a production problem, but never as a condition of the refund.
  • I fix the problem, or educate, plus tell them what I’m doing to fix the problem going forward, for other customers.  This communicates that I care about my brand and I’m doing the right thing by my customers.
  • Most customers complain without expecting a response.  Responding with tips/tricks/helpful education that they already had access to but just didn’t see exceeds their expectations.  (WARNING: If you do this without taking ownership of them missing the instructions, it may seem condescending and worsen the situation)

The key to handling a customer interaction is this:

You want your customer to feel like they still made a great decision by buying your product, even if something did go wrong.  You never want them to regret that they put your product in their cart and clicked “Check Out”

Ask questions or share your experiences providing world class customer service in the comments below.



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