From the Center for Strategic Relations, a twice-monthly supplement to Applying Strategic Relations, mailed at your request

Rebuilding Damaged Relationships

What do you do when someone on your staff upsets a customer? In today's lesson you'll discover what can be done to heal wounded relationships, even after you've done everything else wrong. This one lesson turns around lost accounts making you a hero when the big one almost gets away.

Now that you understand why you build customer relationships at every transaction, you'll see how easily today's lesson becomes. But are you ready to take action? What will you do next?

Start with the end in mind. Your sole objective as a member of sales and marketing management is to create loyal happy customers in a profitable way. Does that mean discounts or gimmicks you see others (less informed individuals) do in the business-to-business?

Stay tuned for the next issue where you'll learn how to create more loyal happy customers today without gimmicks or discounting. Even discover the real cost of discounting that they won't teach you in business school.

Until next time, write with your questions or comments, I'm interested in hearing about what you have to say.


Justin Hitt
Consultant, Author & Speaker

Ps. Thank you for reconfirming your subscription and commitment to this publication. Stay tuned for a special gift for your willingness to take action. Don't keep this resource a secret; be sure to share it with other sales and marketing professionals!

Rebuilding Damaged Customer Relationships Even After You've Done Everything Wrong

By Justin Hitt, Strategic Relations Consultant,

There isn't a company in this world that hasn't, at least once, looked like it was trying to turn customers away angry. Whether it's the wrong people in customer service, errant promises that can't be fulfillment, or just plain negligence. One thing is for sure, customers relationships are being abused in every industry, every day.

You may say, "Not mine!", but there is always that one bad seed.

You say, "We have measures in place to prevent this ..." you're in more trouble than you know. If don't have at least one blaring example in your mind right now, then you just aren't paying attention.

Did you know an unsatisfied customer tell as many as 9 other individuals? Since your customers know mostly those individuals in their same industry or profession, those 9 individuals are likely prospects who will never take the time to learn more about you because of how your company treated their friend.

Sooner or later, you or someone on your staff will irritate a customer so bad you'll think there is nothing that could be done to improve the situation. But there is ... here are a few ideas to rebuild customer relationships even if you've done everything else wrong:

  1. Forget whose fault it is and focus on a solution. Too often effort is put into placing blame over taking care of the specific disconnect that caused the dissatisfaction. Ask, "What can I do to make this right?" instead of "Who made this wrong?"� Does it really matter who was at fault if the customer is so unhappy they won't do business with you?
  2. Admit quickly when you've made a mistake. Sometimes you'll be the problem, and if your company has made a mistake, then say so and move towards a viable solution. This saves face by demonstrating your honesty and willingness to make things right. Most often customers will respect you for admitting you were wrong -- but be sure you have some solution to offer, otherwise an apology is meaningless.
  3. Know a problem won't go away if you ignore it. When you discover a problem before a customer does, don't be afraid to bring it up and offer a solution. It's possible the customer already knows about the same problem, but hasn't bothered to mention it because it gives them an out to select another vendor.
  4. Start with the facts. Before you investigate any situation, ask about and verify known facts. Spend the first part of solving this problem just collecting information (from all parties); the relationship upset could be a symptom of a larger problem. Having the facts from all sides will let you find the root of the problem quickly.
  5. Reestablish credibility and trust one step at a time. Never assume that just because you've solved the problem that you've healed the relationship. It's important you earn the trust of your customer again, as if you've never worked together before. By starting over, you'll rebuild the damaged foundation even stronger than before.
  6. Do what you can do right now. No matter how upset the customer is, you can do something, just standing there isn't going to get anything done except make the problem worse. This means follow up the question, "What can I do to make this right?" with specific action. Do something now!
  7. Put the customer first. It's tempting to wrap problems up quickly, but if your solution isn't in the customer's best interest they will have animosity towards your organization. Focus on solutions that obviously put the customer first. Remind customers, you care enough about their business you want them to be extra happy about what you've done to make things better.

If you are aggressively seeking to serve the most profitable customers possible, there will be times when you'll upset a buyer. Use these ideas to get that relationship back on track and you'll turn even the worst upset to a bonding experience.

© 2006 Justin Hitt, All rights reserved.
/ customer-relations | customer-service /

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