Keep it Personal

It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Your customers are going to have a negative or frustrating experience with your product or services. It’s simply an unavoidable fact. The question isn’t if it will happen, but how are you going to deal with it when it happens? And, what strategies are you going to put in place to ensure you don’t lose those customers for life?

I recently had a very frustrating customer experience of my own with a certain well-known airline. Aggravated by my situation, I reached out to the airline to vocalize my dissatisfaction, and was surprised when they immediately responded by throwing a couple of flight vouchers my way. While a few free plane tickets in an ever-inflating economy did sound nice, it didn’t get to the root of my problem. I didn’t feel heard, I didn’t feel appreciated, and no action was taken to prevent the issue from reoccurring in the future.

In the words of Steve Jobs, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Do you view these situations as an opportunity to learn and improve? Or like many companies, are you guilty of handing out automated responses for the sake of saving time? While Baby Boomers might be completely satisfied with a few free vouchers, a Millennial customer may want something entirely different. The trick is in knowing who your customers are and how to cater to their individual preferences and needs. Sound impossible? It may not be as complicated as you might think.

So what’s the first step to discovering what your customers really want? Ask them. Go directly to the source and find out what they want and what you can do to be authentic and accommodating on their terms. Find out what your Baby Boomer customers value and appreciate. Take the time to understand how to best communicate with your Millennial customers, and so on and so forth. But, by all means never assume that all members within a cohort are created equal. Knowing what one individual wants doesn’t necessarily translate into understanding all. However, by arming yourself with a deeper knowledge of your various cohorts, you will be equipped to meet your customer’s unique needs and retain valuable relationships in the future.

As silly as it might sound, it’s easy to forget that customers are humans. Having a bad experience with a product or service can ruin their day, put them in a bad mood and significantly affect how they view your brand. That’s why it’s so critical to never lose that personal touch no matter how large your company might be. Just like my recent experience with a major airline, I was seeking a personal response to my personal situation, not an automated answer from an impersonal company. Having their ear meant so much and knowing that my words were heard, and changes were made to ensure no one else ever had to go through what I did, meant that much more.

So where do you go from here? Be authentic, keep it personal, and seek to see a complaint through to resolution. It’s really as simple as that. There’s no way to prevent negative experiences from happening, but with a little effort and a willingness to listen, you have the opportunity to turn unhappy customers into brand advocates that last a lifetime. Which do you choose?