How to Recover from a Negative Service Experience & Gain a Customer for Life

We’ve all been on the receiving end of bad customer service. Recently I attempted to purchase an appliance from a large retailer close to my home. After I noticed a mistake made by the salesperson who sold me the equipment, I made multiple attempts to visit and call to correct the situation. After being bounced around and brushed aside one too many times in calling queues and personal visits over the course of three weeks, I lost my cool, canceled my order and took my business elsewhere. Long story short, I’ll never set foot inside this store ever again.

In retrospect, the one thing that really set me off was that nobody seemed to care. Bad customer experiences almost always seem to start this way, regardless of the industry, and are fueled by the perceived inability to find anyone able or willing to resolve an issue. The good news is that almost every negative customer experience can be recovered from and instead of losing a customer forever, a retailer can gain a loyal fan for life.

In the specialty beverage industry, service recovery begins and ends with three key points:

1) Listening
Truly listening to their concerns starts the road to recovery. Without listening to the problem, how would anybody know how to solve it?

If a customer is particularly upset and vocal, don’t take it personally. Keeping cool, calm and concerned is the only way to gain control of the situation to your benefit. Also, even if the customer is the one in the wrong, don’t try to deny their beef. That will only compound the problem.

2) Apologizing
“I am very sorry you had a bad experience so, please…

3) …I hope you’ll allow me to make it up to you.”
Here’s where the deal can be sealed, so finish strong. Be sure and ask, “What can I do to make things better?” 99 times out of 100 they aren’t going to ask for free drinks for a year. In almost every instance, disgruntled customers will request much less than what you would have ultimately been willing to give them. Always close with a card for a free drink of their choice and a big smile to encourage them to come back.

Dealing with an upset customer can be one of the most difficult ordeals any business owner or employee can experience, however, if managed correctly, an irritated customer can become a lucrative opportunity. I’ve heard from numerous businesspeople who’ve told me irate customers have miraculously transformed into a loyal converts and fans for life.

Mike Adams
Stockton Graham & Co.