How to turn difficult customers into highly loyal fans

Ordsprog-UKBy Paul Aas, Loyalty Group

Back in the late 90s Harvard Business School made an experiment. They wanted to test how much influence correct complaint handling had on customer loyalty and retention. Was it possible to prevent raving mad customers from leaving and instead turning them into ambassadors for the company?

HBS got their theories confirmed; using psychological insight and common sense, they managed to prove that if you handle your complaints right you will have the customer in your hands for a long time.

The mentioned African proverb (could have been a quote from the late Nelson Mandela), above says it all; by psychologically getting on top of the situation by saying: "Sorry, we've made a mistake. What can we do to fix the problem?" most customers lose their arguments.

"No one kicks someone who's already down" goes a saying, and that's the point: you've managed to get in charge since the customer probably had expected resistance and excuses.

As part of a basic loyalty strategy for all companies, a strict defined procedure of how complaints are handled should be in place. Appropriate customer information should be available for the front line personnel dealing with customers, as well as they are empowered to make their own decisions without being tied up in rigid company rules.

Last but not least; the customers should be regularly monitored to follow the effect of a correct customer handling program. The phrase "facts make you act"' is an old research phrase, but it's true: everybody needs some guidance in where to go and what to do and that's exactly what customer loyalty measurement systems (like Loyalty Matrix, NPS etc.) will monitor for you.

Australian Ross Beard's (Client Heartbeat) blog points out 4 key issues that needs to be handled when customers complaint:.

  1. Understand and listen
  2. Show that you care
  3. Focus on the solutions
  4. Exceed expectations

If you want to read more on the topic of customer complaint handling, you can look to the article Make somone happy; - send a complaint!

Or you can of course always get in contact with us at Loyalty Group for further inspiration or research, consulting and training for a more professional customer complaint handling.