How to Turn Unhappy Customers into Raving Fans
The New Zealand manager of a large international company recently told his salespeople about a meeting he and his team attended last year in Europe. All the top executive teams from around the world were asked to describe how their business had ‘wowed’ their customers recently. “Imagine our embarrassment,” he said, “when we couldn’t come up with […]
“Imagine our embarrassment,” he said, “when we couldn’t come up with any
It is not very often customers get an experience that really delights them. After all, how many ‘wow experiences’ have you had as a customer in the past few years? Yet, in a tough marketplace you need to knock your customers’ socks off if you want them to come back and especially if you want them to become raving fans, who will help you attract new customers.
Ironically, it does not take much to delight customers. Last week, the head of a large retail chain told me about his recent experience at McDonalds. He took a car full of kids through the drive-through where they ordered burgers, fries and drinks. After they had collected the order, the kids discovered all the fries had been left out of the order. Back through the drive-through they went. At the speaker they explained the problem and by the time they got to the window the fries were ready. The trouble is, by then the kids had wolfed down the burgers and the fries were surplus to requirements.
“I asked if the fries could be replaced by sundaes,” this senior manager told me, “and I was blown away by the response.” The woman serving at the window said that was no problem and within minutes he was driving down the road with a car full of very happy kids scoffing down their sundaes.
“I really expected the woman would say no,” he said, “or at the very least, check with her manager first. I really was prepared for a fight because I was pretty brassed off at the hassle we’d been through. Instead, I left delighted.”
As this story shows, it often takes only little things to turn even angry customers into raving fans. But for these little things to happen, most business owners and managers need to make major shifts in their thinking. That shift is from managing staff through ‘command and control’ to empowering them.
Empowering staff is not a new idea, so why is it that most bosses are reluctant to let their people off the leash? Could it be fear?
It is scary giving staff the ability to make decisions on the spot that could affect your reputation and impact on your profitability? Here are six tips that will allow you to delegate with confidence.
1. Get staff thinking like business people.
Remind your staff the aim in business is to have profitable customers who stay with you a long time. Tell them every decision they make, every action they take and every word they speak should be designed to help your business achieve that goal. Explain that wowing customers is the best way to get people coming back and that going the extra mile or doing something out of the ordinary are great ways to wow customers. Explain that when something goes wrong and a customer complains, saying sorry, taking quick action to put it right and giving the customer something extra for their trouble will turn an unhappy customer into a raving fan.
2. Explain the investment.
You will probably also need to explain that in business, you have to invest a little to get a larger return later because, ironically, staff who are empowered are often less prepared to give something away than the boss. I consulted to a large bank a few years ago and we empowered staff to cancel up to $60 in fees if the customer felt they had been charged unfairly. Our biggest problem was staff who were very reluctant to refund fees. We had to explain that ‘giving the customer a freebie,’ which was how staff saw it, was an investment in the bank’s future because these delighted customers would become the banks best advocates.
3. Allay their suspicions.
Research indicates only one or two out of every 100 customers is out to rip you off. Since staff are often even more suspicious of the customer’s motives than you would be, you might need to explain it is not good business to assume every customer is out to pull a fast one just to protect the business from the tiny minority who are. Tell your staff there is a lot to be gained long-term by giving people the benefit of the doubt, at least on the first occasion they ask for something.
4. Explain what to do.
You cannot foresee every scenario your staff could be faced with so you cannot give them specific instructions for specific situations. What you can do is tell your people to do what makes sense to them at the time. You are even more likely to get staff making a decision that will delight your customers if you tell them to put themselves in the customer’s shoes first, and then do what makes sense to them.
5. Assure your staff of your support.
Often staff are reluctant to give anything away because they are afraid they will get in trouble. This was certainly part of the reason bank staff were reluctant to refund fees. In this case, senior management had to reassure staff they would not get in trouble if they did what they believed was the reasonable thing to do.
6. Help them see the benefits for themselves.
Ask staff how they could benefit if they wowed their customers. They will say their jobs would be more fun because they would be dealing with happy customers who are appreciative of their help. Stress at work would be reduced and they would look forward to coming to work.
You succeed in business by managing risk not avoiding it. Empower your staff to delight your customers and everyone will win: customers, staff and you.
Dr Ian Brooks (www.ianbrooks.com) is a leading expert in customer care and chairman of the NZ Association of Customer Excellence