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If I were to ask you about the last bad customer experience you had, could you remember it? Most of us can remember almost immediately when asked.

Think about how powerful that is—you have a negative experience with customer service and it stays. It stays to where you can remember it months later, almost instantly.

If I were to ask you to recall a positive customer experience you had, you’re going to be able to remember one almost immediately too.

We remember customer experiences, positive or negative.

They’re very powerful. It could be something as simple as greeting you with a smile or calling a company and instead of an automated system, it’s a real human being who answers within just a few seconds. Maybe it’s someone who’s cheerful to you when you were going to return a product and ask for a refund. We remember those experiences.

As a business owner, the way you conduct yourself with customer support affects the brand and the customer.

What do you do in your business if something goes wrong? If a customer has a negative experience, how do you fix that?

We’ve already established that positive experiences and negative experiences alike are very, very powerful. People remember them. What’s even more powerful is a negative experience that turns into a positive experience.

Create a Happy Ending

We know that people are going to share negative experiences with customer support, so why not turn that story into something good? Everybody loves a happy ending.

Think about it: this person is going to share their negative experience with everyone they know. All of their friends are going to hear about it, so why not rewrite the ending and turn it into something positive?

Since a customer support story is going to be shared, putting a positive spin on the end makes the story act as marketing for you.

It’s the best kind of marketing: word-of-mouth marketing.

We regularly ship physical products and sometimes, when you go to ship two products, labels can get swapped and you end up putting the wrong label on the wrong package. It seems like a simple mistake but it has huge ramifications because the first package is going to the wrong person and the second package is also going to the wrong person.

You’ve actually got two problems here, but it gets even worse—both people are going to receive the wrong item. What you don’t want to do is say, “Oh, don’t worry about it. Just send it back to us and we’ll replace it with the correct one.”

The problem with this is it puts a burden on the customer. They didn’t get the item they ordered and it’s going to take even longer to get the item they should have received. You’re creating a hassle for them and causing them to do work.

Note that the most effective way to solve this problem is not the most cost effective way, but in the long term it’s going to be more beneficial.

The most effective way to deal with this is to tell the person to keep the wrong item, apologize profusely, and say, “I’m so sorry this mistake happened. It shouldn’t have happened at all. We’re going to replace the item. We’re going to send a new item, but go ahead and keep the wrong item. Maybe give it to a friend if you don’t want it. We just don’t want you to go out of your way.”

You don’t ever want to make someone go to the post office and send something back to you—that’s a terrible experience.

Now, if you’re not tracking with me, you might think everything is ok now. You didn’t make them do work, you didn’t make them send the wrong item back, and you’re sending the right item, but there’s still something wrong here.

What’s left is the fact they didn’t get the item they ordered. They still don’t have the item they ordered and it’s been longer than it should be. Now they’re waiting and they’re inconvenienced so you still need to make up for that.

Since you’re sending the right item already, the way you can make up for it is by also giving them a coupon. Tell them they can get $5 off their next order, or 10% off their next order, for their inconvenience.

You’re making sure to fix all of the issues that happened. It’s not just saying, “Oh, you don’t have to go out of your way,” but instead you’re saying, “Since you have to wait extra long, we want to make up for that.” This effectively creates a positive story from a negative story.

Put a spin on a negative story with a customer to give it a positive ending.

When a friend hears about this, and inevitably they will, they hear that someone got the wrong item, got to keep it, was then sent the right item a few days later, and given a coupon on top of all of it. This creates a loyal customer from what would have been a negative customer.

The person is now incentivized to buy from you again using the coupon you gave them. Also, what has previously been a loss is now going to potentially break even or potentially profitable when they buy another product.

You don’t want to do what the short-sighted business owner does. The short-sighted business owner looks at this as a problem to minimize. You need to look at this as a story to maximize and that’s how you build loyalty. That’s how you get a story that will spread with others.

Think in terms of long-term growth and not minimizing short-term losses.