Make or Break Moments in Customer Service

customer-serviceWe have all had this experience at one time or another – you’re at a restaurant and your meal isn’t quite right or a product you ordered is damaged. In these moments, business have the opportunity to make lemonade out of lemons. It’s these experiences that can determine whether or not a customer will be back.

Unfortunately, many businesses choose the wrong path. They forget the mantra that ‘the customer is always right’. They argue with the customer and they don’t offer to fix the problem. Because these businesses are too focused on the bottom line, they are afraid to give away something for free. But, what they don’t realize, is that one free item can gain you a loyal customer who sings your praises. The repeat business will more than pay for the freebie.

This week, I experienced one of these make or break moments. I went to Cantina Laredo with my girlfriends. During dinner, I discovered a shard of plastic in my beverage. Out of concern for my safety and that of other guests, I mentioned this to our server.  He immediately swept away my beverage and brought me a new one within a matter of minutes. I was appreciative. He took care of the problem, which is all I expected. However, moments later, the manager arrived at our table and apologized profusely. He said they were looking into how this problem might have occurred. Next, he asked what he could do to make it up to me. I told him that I had a new beverage and that I was enough. He then offered dessert and I politely agreed. At first, I thought the dessert was just for me, but I soon realized that they were bringing dessert for our entire table.  So, instead of free dessert, we got five! My friends and I were impressed. Not only had they turned a sour moment into something positive, but their service had been phenomenal throughout the entire meal. Our server was warm and welcoming, and we never reached the bottom of our beverages or bowls of chips. The bottom line is that the restaurant made a good experience truly great.

When a customer has a bad experience, I recommend the following steps to making it right:

  1. Apologize. Remember that the customer is always right. Apologizing for the problem, no matter how small, will go a long way.
  2. Fix the problem. Ask the customer how to fix the problem. Chances are, they have an idea in mind of how you can improve the situation. This often includes replacement of the damaged item or a refund for the bad service.
  3. Ask if there’s anything else you can do. In addition to fixing the problem, ask the customer if there’s anything else you can do to make the situation right.
  4. Determine how to avoid the problem in the future. This is perhaps the most important step. Look at how the error occured and work with your staff to correct the breakdown in service.  Look at these situations as opportunities to further improve your level of service.  

Businesses need to realize that customers will share their experiences (good or bad) with their friends and multitude of followers online. Businesses can’t afford to miss these opportunities to make a positive impression. Following these steps will make sure your customers will be back, and perhaps more importantly, telling others about their positive experience.

How do you handle these make or break moments? Do you have any other tips for handling these situations?

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Hi Friends!

Hello and welcome  to my little corner of the Internet. I’ve decided to start this blog to share advice and musings about marketing and public relations, and what I’ve learned about this world in general.

Originally, I was reluctant to start blogging. I questioned myself and wondered what I have to offer. In the Internet world, it’s easy to find someone who knows more than you do. However, after attending a conference for fellow court public information officers a few weeks ago, I realized I have more to contribute than I originally thought. The conference was centered on social media, but only a handful of attendees had ever used Facebook and even fewer had a Twitter account. By the final day, it became clear that my colleagues needed a primer, so my colleague, Michael,  and I set out to show our fellow PIOs how we have used Twitter and other social media tools effectively. Our impromptu presetation received a positive response and I quickly realized that perhaps other people can learn from my experiences.

Certainly, I realize that there are people who know more about social media, blogging and marketing than me. But, I believe I have a unique perspective to offer. After all, there’s only one me. Where else could you find a marketing professional who has “walked beans” on a central Missouri farm?  (Okay, perhaps I’m not the only former farm girl turned marketer out there.)

All of this being said, I hope you enjoy reading my blog and that I have something of value to offer. Even though I don’t know you just yet, dear reader, I hope that we will soon become friends. With friends, you can share your thoughts, ideas, desires and dreams. You can share what you’ve learned from successes and failures. You can laugh, and sometimes cry. And from all of this, we grow.

So, pull up a chair. Grab a cup of coffee and let’s start a conversation. My name is Laura and this is my blog. Hello friend!