We are living in interesting times with new territory when it comes to customer service. More than ever, the customer has a voice and they are using it. Those customers that might not say anything about not being happy at the time of their service experience are now using their voices on Social Media websites. Websites that are reaching large audiences and those audiences are listening! Consumers have many options these days and they don’t have to do business with companies that don’t make them feel valued. Then there are customers that are saying something to the company about their unpleasant experience and following up with Social Media outbursts after if they didn’t get the answers they wanted.
So the question is… what should companies do? First, hire the best company representatives you can find, making sure that company values align with the representative. Communicate company values consistently by walking the talk. Then continue to have a pulse on your business. Do you really know what your representatives are saying to the customer? I am not saying listen to every call or micromanage all of their communicate pieces. Yet I promise you that if you listen to a handful of calls and find that your representatives are not acting in line with the company values, there are many more calls where they are saying the same things. Then follow up with coaching your representatives and have continued training on how to work with challenging guests. Ensuring that they understand what company guidelines are flexible so that customers aren’t constantly being told “no” due to company policies.
So what do we do when everything was good with the experience in the beginning and then something bad happens? A human error that can happen to anyone of us takes place. Let’s use the example of a vacation rental management company overbooking situation.
Step 1: Apologize
Apologize for the situation and any inconvenience that your guest is going to feel. Making sure you are sympathetic and communicating this by phone and not over a voicemail or email.
Step 2: Listen to their reaction
If they scream, let them scream. If they cry, practice active listening between their tears and gasping for air. Active listening, being, don’t be so quiet that they think you hung up on them.
Step 3: Have a couple of solutions to the problem
This could be different dates for their stay or another place for them to stay during the same time. Let them select the option that works best for them so they feel empowered with a situation that can make guests feel helpless and frustrated. Keeping in mind to only offer two fair options, this way they don’t feel overwhelmed with making a decision that they didn’t see coming.
Step 4: Offer atonement
A gift certificate at a favorite local restaurant, ski lift tickets or whitewater rafting, etc… Since your reservation sales agent was such a super star, they have great notes on the reservation outlining details about the guests that will help in deciding what gift certificate would be the best fit. I know that everyone says do a discount for your next stay so they will be sure to come back… I disagree. Give them something that will create a memory that they might not have had if you hadn’t given it to them. That will go much further in their loyalty then making them feel like they have to stay with you again.
Step 5: Keep your promise
Set up the new reservation for them, with special notes that they are VIPs. Get them the gift certificate that was decided on with a hand written note thanking them for being so understanding.
Step 6: Follow up
Call them during their stay with someone else or with your company, making sure that they received their gift certificate and ask how they are enjoying their stay so far. This piece is one of the most crucial and forgot steps. It can be scary, because they might say that they aren’t happy. Yet it is a crucial step to the recovery process.
Always keep in mind that customers complain because they want to keep doing business with you, they just don’t want it to be so painful when doing so. Spin the customer challenges around and see them as opportunities for growth instead of one more upset customer that you have to deal with. In true entrepreneurial spirit, that is why you own your own business, right?