A Korean man finally bought his dream car after 15 years of hard work but afterwords reported that the S-Class’s engine stopping running on three separate occasions. The owner then took the car back to the local Mercedes dealer who apparently promised to exchange the car if the engine suddenly stopped again.
When the engine did in fact stall for a fourth time while the driver was behind the wheel with his family on board, he immediately headed back to the dealership. The dealership workers told him that they couldn’t do anything until their boss returned from an ongoing business trip.
Not satisfied with this explanation, the frustrated owner decided to smash his car using golf club with his own hands.
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Strategies for Building Long-Term Customer Loyalty
Here are tips for coping with a tense situation and hopefully resolving it to everyone’s satisfaction:
1. Remain calm. When a customer starts yelling or being otherwise rude, there is nothing to be gained by responding in a similar manner. In fact, that will probably escalate hostilities. Maintain control of yourself, even if the customer’s tirade makes you feeling like yelling yourself.
2. Don’t take it personally. Remember, the customer is not angry with you, they are displeased with the performance of your product or the quality of the service you provide. Your personal feelings are beside the point.
3. Listen to Emotion without Emotion
Listen to the inflections and emphasis that the customer places on specific topics to identify the emotional catalyst. Listen to the emotion as well as the words. This will help you to identify the specific item or items that need primary attention. Resolving a technical issue may be only partially effective if it does not also address the customer emotional concerns. It may not be possible to completely resolve the emotional distress, but it is appropriate to acknowledge it.
Imagine that a customer experienced a technical malfunction when downloading digital images of a special event, wedding or family vacation. The technical issue may be related to hardware or software, but the emotional distress is related to the risk of losing precious memories. While it is necessary to correct the technical issue, it is also appropriate to acknowledge the risks that create the emotional response. Try to preserve the precious memories or at least explain why they can not be retrieved, but do not ignore the emotional catalyst
4. Actively sympathize. After the customer vents, he wants to know you understand where he’s coming from and how he or she feels. Express sympathy for their unpleasant customer experience. Respect and understanding go a long way toward smoothing things over.
5. Apologize gracefully. Whether the customer’s complaint is legitimate or not is really irrelevant. If you want her to stay a customer, you need to express an apology for the problem they are having (or perceive to be having). A simple, straightforward statement is often all that’s needed: “I’m sorry you’re not happy with our product. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”
6. Find a solution. Once you understand why the customer is unhappy, it is time to offer a solution. Ask him what he feels should be done or put forward your own fair and realistic answer to the problem. In most cases, that’s all the customer is looking for—and may result in providing some degree of satisfaction.
7. Take a few minutes on your own. After the situation has been resolved and the customer is on her way, it’s helpful for you to take your own “time-out.” Even if you’ve handled the situation in the most professional way possible, it’s still a stressful experience. Rather than let that stress linger inside you, take a short walk, treat yourself to a snack or find someone to talk to who makes you laugh. Then you’ll be ready to once again engage with your customers.