Generally speaking, negative experiences can be grouped into four different types.
- Lapse in Product Quality. Sometimes products aren't what they are supposed to be.
- Poor Service or Support. Most customers have experienced bad phone service, such as interminable wait times or confusing phone systems.
- Lapse in Process. If a customer is having her cable installed at home and needs to take half the day off to do it, and then the technician doesn't show up, doesn't have the right tools, or simply can't make it happen, the customer is unlikely to be impressed.
- Abusive or Criminal Activity. For example, mechanics overcharge for work that was never needed in the first place, a real estate agent doesn't disclose issues with a home buyer, or a retail store sells a damaged item at full price.
When you are responding to negativity, you have a choice: you can ether create another negative experience for your customer and likely lose him or her forever, or you can create a positive experience that could, if nothing else, negate the negative experience. So, how to handle it?
- Find the value
First and foremost, you need to find the value in a negative comment. You'll never be able to create positive customer experiences out of negative events if you first don't look for and find the negative events. If a comment says â€œYour product is junk!--finding value may be incredibly difficult, if downright impossible. However, most comments will be grounded in some form of truth or experience that you can fix, and you should be able to counter with something that makes the customer happy. Look for the value in the comment, even if it's buried deep.
- Find the problem
Having found the value of the comment, determine exactly what is the problem. Is it a temporary lapse in process? Poor service? Was the customer mistreated or abused? Determining the actual problem and the cause of that problem is necessary before you can begin to solve it, fix the issue, and make the customer happy.
- Find the person
When responding to issues, it's too easy to forget that real people are involved--both the customer who had the negative experience and possibly even the people internally at your company who may have had a hand in it. Remembering that people caused the issue, and people suffered, will make your response more real, human, and caring.
- Find the solution
Whether the problem was a lapse in product quality that has already been fixed or an internal process that will take weeks or months to fix, the solution to the overall problem and to the customer's specific issue needs to be discovered and addressed.
- Fix the problem
Where possible, implement the fix to your internal processes or training, or whatever caused the issue. Where a fix isn't possible, acknowledge that you're working on it. For the customer, fix whatever happened. If it's a deficient product, replace it. If poor employee training or a lapse in process was the cause, apologize and make it right.
- Make the person happy
Once again, real people here. Be empathetic, and, when it comes time to respond, do so in a way that makes the person believe that you've not only fixed the problem, but that you care.
Now respond to the comment, keeping all of these steps in mind. I won't give you some weak form-letter response to follow, because that wouldn't be real. But if you actually followed all of the previous steps, you shouldn't have any problem fixing the issue, making the customer smile, and improving things internally so that these types of issues shouldn't crop up again.
This methodology allows you to ensure that not only is the customer properly treated for their distress, but that he or she is rewarded for helping your company become better at what you should already be best at: treating people like people.