How to Turn Bad Customers Into Your Best Customers

Lauren Krause
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The Internet is filled with stories and even news reports of angry customers expressing rage at customer service representatives. Despite the old adage, "the customer is always right," many businesses fail to follow this wisdom. So how can a business turn a bad customer into a good one? By training staff in customer service, striving for resolution over retention, listening to customers and sometimes letting customers go, businesses can turn bad customers to good customers.

Thirty or 40 years ago, if a consumer was dissatisfied with a company, his only recourse was to yell at the clerk in person, send a letter or possibly call a 1-800 number. With the advent and explosion of social media, including consumer review sites such as Yelp and Angie's List, the mouthpieces for customer discontent are numerous.

So why worry about turning a bad customer into a good one? According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, the reasons are abundant. It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. A dissatisfied customer typically tells between nine to 15 people about his negative customer service experience, whereas a customer whose issue is resolved well tells four to six people. The risks of leaving a customer unhappy have increased greatly as have the opportunities to turn that customer into a passionate advocate.

Southwest Airlines is discovering how to turn a bad customer into a good one with some brand management strategies. Communications Specialist Laurel Moffet cites the airline's adoption of a "listen and personalize" strategy in dealing with customers. Having survived a social media attack by comedian Kevin Smith in 2010, the airline learned to train its gate agents in the potential effects of poor customer service. Likewise, the five-person team that oversees Southwest's social media efforts in 2014 was trained in customer service. The social media team works around the clock to address personally those influencers (travelers, bloggers, etc.) by first listening to their comment or complaint, then responding in real time and signing the post with the initials of the customer service rep who authored it. Letting an angry customer know he has been heard is one key way to turn a bad customer into a good one.

Comcast is learning a few lessons in customer service from an incident that occurred in July 2014. The Comcast case offers insight on how to turn a bad customer to a good one. Customer service representatives should know when to resolve an issue and then let a customer go. If an unhappy customer leaves with a resolved issue, rather than remaining an unhappy current customer, brand image wins. Not only might the customer return, but according to the statistics listed above, that customer could actually become an advocate for a brand rather than becoming a very vocal critic.

The key to turning a bad customer to a good one is to acknowledge the importance of doing so. The method to accomplishing this brand management strategy is to train staff in customer service, strive for resolution over retention and listen and sometimes let go.

"So I says to him, 'THIS is how you do a karate chop'!" by Aislinn Ritchie licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0


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