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Repeat customers are the life blood of a successful business, and keeping them satisfied and coming back for life is worth any extra effort that may be required. Perhaps even more important than maintaining a strong base of returning customers, is winning back those that are dissatisfied. AJ Agrawal posits in the Huffington Post, that customer complaints should be welcomed as immediate feedback on a business system that is not in optimal working order. Unhappy customers, when handled correctly, are a useful resource to help guide your company toward seamless processes that will keep all customers delighted and coming back.


A 2016 article from Entrepreneur magazine outlines a great strategy for customer service staff to utilize when dealing with unhappy clients. The acronym HELP provides the guidance necessary to get the disgruntled customer back into the fold: Hear, Empathize, Lead, and Provide a workable and satisfactory resolution. As a follow up, a customer service survey can prove helpful as a tool to gain further insight into the whys and how’s of the situation going off-track. When customers have valid complaints, the best thing to do is correct the situation immediately, and completely. If they were sent incorrect merchandise, overnight the correct item, and at a discount.


Customers are a helpful resource when it comes to learning more about what is, and what isn’t, working within your firm’s customer interactive experiences. A simple customer satisfaction survey can glean key information such as: satisfaction with products, interaction with company staff, level of service, and perceived value at current price points. Work with key management to determine who the most appropriate and useful responders are, and target them accordingly. It is typical to offer some type of incentive to responders, such as a gift card or other other promotional items.


According to the Customer Support gurus at Help Scout, there are three necessary steps to creating an impactful customer loyalty program: set an achievable goal for your customers, decide the action that they will need to undertake, and finally, create a “head start” for them at the beginning of the program. One example is a loyalty punch card that requires a certain number of purchases prior to receiving the reward. Help Scout recommends creating a 10 purchase card with the first two slots already punched. Their research shows that such cards are 34% more effective than a similar card with eight required purchases and no “gimmes”.


Constant innovation and improvement environments will take customer information and transform that knowledge into actionable steps that can be undertaken with immediacy. One tenet of improvement initiatives is “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”, meaning that all goals must be clearly defined, progress steps must be in place and able to be readily tracked, and pre-determined results must be met. Utilize your innovation team to create the customer satisfaction initiative, with the data collected from the customer satisfaction surveys. Top of the list will be strategies to win back unhappy customers and turn them into repeat clients.

A strong customer service centered business model will anticipate unhappy customers, and have a strategy in place to effectively deal with the situation. By addressing each customer situation immediately, and most importantly, using the experience as an opportunity to optimize customer interaction, a lot can be gained from customer complaints.

The occurrence of valid customer complaints reveals flaws in the corporate system, and successful firms create a culture that lives and breathes customer satisfaction. Such cultures address challenging situations head-on, are honest about mistakes, and listen to their customers.

When you are confronted with an unhappy customer, look at them as a resource to provide insight into what you can do differently to keep all of your customers coming back. Successful companies ensure that their culture expects constant change and innovation, and perceives unhappy customers as opportunities for improvement.



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