Problems arise. It's a fact of life. No matter how flawless a business is or how perfectly plans are laid out, problems will arise. The key to retaining customers when a problem arises in a business is in how the issue is resolved.
Problems can actually become a pivotal moment where, with proper resolution, customer engagement can increase to higher than it was prior to the problem occurring. While proper problem resolution may seem daunting, Gallup research shows that it actually breaks down into three simple steps.
Don't Inconvenience the Customer
The first step in proper problem resolution is ensuring that seeking a resolution won't inconvenience the customer. The more forms a customer must fill out, the more hurdles they must overcome, the lower their engagement will be even after the problem is resolved.
A key to streamlining problem resolution for a customer is to make sure that the first person they talk to about the problem is able to fix it. Employees should have the opportunity and the power to solve problems, especially if the issue is minor. And while sometimes this isn't possible and the customer must talk to a manager or resolution specialist, make it as easy as possible for the customer to talk to them. Don't make customers fill out multiple forms or wait on hold for extended periods of time. Solve the problem with as little effort from the customer as possible.
Make Customers Feel Valued
The second step to successful problem resolution may seem obvious, but it can also be easily overlooked. Customers must feel valued, they must feel like the business cares about them and sincerely cares about solving their issue or complaint.
This is also linked to empowering employees to help when customers come to them with problems. An employee should empathize with the customer and listen to the complaint or problem. They should show that they truly care about resolving the issue, and don't simply want to make the issue someone else's problem.
Giving Freebies if Necessary
Giving free items, refunds and gifts is the important last step if the customer's problem is a serious one. This is crucial to helping the customer feel valued and maintaining their satisfaction if they've encountered a serious issue. And it can help encourage the customer to return to the business again in the future.
It is important to note, however, that just giving a freebie will not make the customer feel better. They also have to feel that the problem was resolved -- especially with minimal work on the part of the customer -- and that the company values the customer and sincerely apologized for the issue. The first two steps are necessary before a refund or discount will make the customer satisfied.
That said, resolving an issue is not the end. Issues cannot become systemic or be repeated, or businesses will run the risk of losing customers for good. Employees should report problems to their superiors, so that managers and business owners ensure that they do not become repeated issues. Dig into what caused the problem: Was it a technological glitch? A miscommunication? Human error? This also provides opportunities to make sure the issue is handled as quickly and successfully as possible, and that the employee who solved the problem was the first person the customer spoke with.
Gallup research finds that if problems are resolved successfully, using these crucial steps, customer satisfaction will be preserved, and in some circumstances will increase to a point higher than it was even before the problem occurred. Successful problem resolution stops customers from leaving businesses to go to competitors. And it can encourage them to come back to a business again in the future, because they trust that the business will quickly solve any problem that arises, and that the business truly cares about having them as a customer.