Loyalty Leader Quick Tips

A Customer Grudge Can Last Forever

August 10, 2016

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I was recently enjoying a relaxing evening out with a group of my friends, all talented professionals in a variety of fields. This evening was no different than any “girl’s night out.” Our conversations ranged from the high cost of a college education to where our kids are going to camp this summer. Then, I asked a simple question that generated a lengthy discussion. 

Fine doesn’t necessarily mean great.

I happened to mention that our family had adopted a new dog and I asked the group if anyone could recommend a good place for dog grooming services. One person told me the name of a groomer in our area where she has been taking her dog. “It’s been fine,” she said.

We chatted a little more about the place when suddenly another friend piped up, “I can’t just sit here and say nothing. I had a terrible experience with that groomer and I’ll never use their services again. I don’t trust them.”

My friend proceeded to share her story. When she called to schedule an appointment, she told the groomer that she would pick her dog up after work (around 5:30 p.m.). The day she brought the dog in, the groomer told her she would have to pick her dog up no later than 3:30 p.m. or she would be charged a two-hour boarding fee. 

Customers have long memories.

After we listened to her story, there was more sharing of poor customer service experiences. I’m certain that you have been in the same boat, listening to friends or sharing your own customer service horror stories. Even though some of these episodes occurred a long time ago, the memories of the frustration they caused are still vivid.

Negative service stories tend to go viral.

Poor service can cause customers to hold grudges for a long time. The less that was done to correct the problem, the longer a customer is likely to stay angry. Additionally, the longer the grudge, the more damage a customer will do to a business by sharing their story with others, over and over again. If they are shared electronically, they may go viral and cause extensive reputation problems for a business.

Lack of ownership makes the problem worse.

Mistakes are made in every business. Sometimes customer frustrations are the result of a simple miscommunication or misunderstanding, but they are blown out of proportion when an employee is unwilling to take ownership of the problem. 

An apology would have helped.

My friend pleaded her case by pointing out that, at the time she scheduled the appointment, she had mentioned she would not arrive until 5:30. During that conversation, no one had told her there would be any additional charge. The groomer could not be swayed and didn’t even apologize for the miscommunication. The extra fee was going to be charged. She canceled the appointment, scooped up her dog and marched out. And, the grudge stuck!

My friend’s story would have had a different outcome if the groomer had simply said, “I’m sorry. I guess we didn’t communicate our policy clearly when you called to schedule your appointment. I’ll waive the boarding charge for today.”

The cost of poor service.

Sure, she would have lost the small amount of revenue that the she would have made off the boarding fees. Instead, her unwillingness to take ownership and bend the rules, caused her to lose a customer and years of profitability generated through repeat business. But the damage goes deeper, because every time my friend shares her story, she is likely to direct more business away from that groomer.

Bending the rules can pay big dividends through customer loyalty.

Delivering excellent customer service boils down to common sense. Is it really worth it to stand firm on a policy if it means you are going to lose a customer and generate negative word-of-mouth publicity? Each time you interact with a customer, particularly with a customer who is upset, it’s time to put aside your pride, bend the rules and let them know you sincerely care about their business.

Otherwise, they may storm out your door, taking their business and their grudge with them!

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