There’s one crucial facet of business that can either create a foundation for success or send your entire operation crumbling, and that’s customer service. You can have a great product, your marketing team can be the best in the business, and your location can be perfect, but when you don’t have an effective customer service plan to mitigate mistakes and find viable solutions, your business will fail.
The research backs this up. In fact, the average American tells 15 people when they have a bad customer service experience. In addition, 56 percent of worldwide consumers stopped using a business after one bad customer service experience. That’s a statistic group you cannot afford to be a part of, especially since 67 percent of churn can be prevented if an issue is resolved when it first happens.
Customer service isn’t one-size-fits-all for every business, but there are Two Golden Rules I follow that underline the power of a viable customer service response. Unfortunately, as the following story shows, not every company has learned how to do this effectively.
A Painful (and Expensive) Typo
In 2011, Larina Helsom was experiencing severe chest pains. The condition grew to the point where she missed work and underwent surgery for muscle spasms to correct the issue. But what was causing her pain remained a mystery.
Then, Helsom noticed a small typo on her regular prescription. Her pharmacy was doling out 50 micrograms of medication for every dose she took, which was 10 times her prescribed limit! Helsom was overdosing her body on a regular basis because of an added zero.
Helsom contacted her pharmacy, and they argued that 50 micrograms was standard for this medication. Eventually, the pharmacy referred Helsom to a third-party service agency, which, according to studies, was a dangerous move on the pharmacy’s part. About 72 percent of consumers believe that explaining their problem to more than one person is bad customer service. Ultimately, the companies stopped answering her calls.
As Helsom’s story started to spread, the pharmacy pledged to implement solutions to do better in the future. However, the pharmacy never released a public apology or record of compensation, leaving consumers and professionals scratching their heads.
So, What Went Wrong? And How It Could Have Gone Right?
Larina Helsom’s pharmacy failed to do right by the customer, and ultimately, they provided consumers with a bleak resolution. Personally, I follow Two Golden Rules for customer service, and following those rules certainly would have been better than what Helsom’s pharmacy decided to do. While it’s not always easy, these rules have given my employees and myself some guidance for correcting wrongdoings. Check them out below.
Golden Rule No. 1: Politely Tell the Truth
This rule has two parts, but they go hand-in-hand. The first part of this Golden Rule is that you must own up to your mistakes and be absolutely transparent. No customer wants to hear you drone on or be sent in 10 different directions as you pass the buck. Own up to your mistakes and be vigilant enough to where you can let the customer know you messed up before they discover it on their own. They won’t be happy that it happened, but they will value your honesty and straightforward communication.
As if admitting you screwed up wasn’t difficult enough, you have to be polite, even when you’re facing an upset customer who may not be in the right. It can be difficult to keep your temper at bay, but I always try to approach every conversation with ticked off customers with an open mind. Bottom line: If you wouldn’t say it to your grandma, don’t say it to a customer.
Golden Rule No. 2: The Customer Is Actually Always Right, But Mistakes Are Rarely One-Sided
There’s a caveat to this rule. Not every customer is right, but you have to show your customers that you’re willing to work with them, no matter what.
I start by paraphrasing the problem as the customer has told it to me to better understand the issue. If I find there really wasn’t anything we could have done to prevent the mistake, I ask the customer questions about ways we can help, what the steps leading up to the problem were, and what we can do in the future. Finally, I like to ask them what they think fair compensation would be. This puts them in the driver’s seat, which is ultimately reduces frustration. When someone feels they have been wronged, it’s because they think something was out of their control. If you give them some control and compromise, you have a returning customer.
Implementing the Golden Rules
Knowing the Golden Rules is one thing; actually abiding by them is another. Let’s use Larina Helsom’s horrific experience as an example.
- Golden Rule 1: Ideally, there would be a system in place that would ensure Helsom’s doctor’s recommendation for medication was followed by the pharmacy, but not every organization is the same. However, once Helsom found the mistake, her pharmacy was responsible for owning up to it and finding a way to correct it, without shuffling her problem around. Failing to answer the phone, directing her to other sources, and avoiding a formal apology isn’t the way most people treat their grandmas.
- Golden Rule 2: Sure, 50 micrograms may have been the standard prescription to measure out for this particular medication, but that doesn’t mean the pharmacy was right in giving Helsom 10 times her dosage. After she complained to the pharmacy, they had a duty to apologize and offer solutions, no matter what their “policy” states. This might mean they call Helsom’s doctor, offer compensation, or work with her to find solutions.
No one wants to admit they were wrong, and developing the best practices for your business can take some work. But when you can own your mistakes politely and give your customers a fair compromise, you’ll find that the customers you wronged become your best customers. After all, it’s all about finding solutions, not being right.