One of the most disheartening things that can happen as a business owner is receiving negative comments or emails about your business or staff. But what if those negative comments were the secret to improving your relationship with that customer?
Business owners have a tendency to respond to negativity in one of two ways: defensively or mechanically. Responses either become defensive by immediately disagreeing with the customer and telling them that they’re wrong about their claim, or responses look like a computer wrote it. It is important to understand that, if your goal is improving customer relations, your response to negative comments should never look defensive or mechanic.
Think back to all of the times when you, personally, encountered a business that didn’t live up to its promises or had a staff member that wasn’t performing or did something wrong. If you contacted the business owner, how would you feel if their response sounded like an auto-reply or like they were angry with you? Likely, such responses would only add fuel to the fire.
Imagine instead that their response was personal. If they immediately owned up to what happened. If they asked if they could use your experience in the next training so that it didn’t happen again. If instead of “Dear Mr. Johnson,” it started with “Hi Bill”. If they apologized. It’s likely that you’d be surprised, and even impressed, with their transparency and honesty.
It’s a hard pill to swallow, but one of the best techniques you can implement in your customer service strategies is being transparent. If you get an email from a customer saying that one of your employees was less than impressive or didn’t follow your policy, try sending a response similar to this one:
Thanks for letting me know about your experience. I’m so sorry that [employee name] was rude to you. That’s the last thing that we want, and, if it’s OK with you, I’d like to use your experience in our next training so that we can make sure our employees are trained well and that this doesn’t happen again. I’ll be personally speaking to [employee name] to make sure that he understands what is expected of him and to make sure that he has everything he needs from me to do his job at the highest level possible.
Bill, this is my personal email. If you need anything in the future or have any more feedback, I’d love to hear from you.
Would you be blown away if you received that email? It’s likely that Bill now feels important and that his opinion is valued, which makes him one of your new best assets. Bill will now come directly to you with any concerns or possible suggestions that he might have — instead of bashing your company around town — because he feels that you value him and his opinion.
Finally, it’s important to note that no where in that response email is an “offer”. John didn’t offer Bill 20 percent off his next purchase or to comp his meal. This is a fine line to walk, because there will be situations that require compensating a customer. However, offering them something can often come across as “hush money”; they keep the bad experience to themselves, and you give them something in return.
Generally speaking, a customer really just wants to feel like they’re being heard, and if you’re transparent in your responses, you will reap the benefits in a new-found, mutually beneficial relationship with your customers.