By Rochelle Carter-Wilson

One lonely star…

Enough to sink the bravest heart, there it sat, awaiting moderation, a one (out of five stars) review. No matter your line of business, every poor review begs the question, “How did this happen?” While the details of service failures vary, one thing is true: customers are the lifeblood of business. Every Single Business. No one in the business of satisfying customers ever wants to hear they’ve failed. Treating customers with loyalty and respect, particularly in the face of one lonely star, is how to make them stay.

Delivering extraordinary customer service may mean “taking one for the team.” When customers feel aggrieved, customer service champions and the organizations they represent take the full angry weight of disappointed buyers, even when the problems are not their fault, even when nothing is wrong.

When things go wrong, say I’m sorry.

Begin with “I’m sorry,” or at the very least, “I understand.” Acknowledging dissatisfaction matters, even when you’re prepared to make it go away. Recognize that the customer was not delighted. Before you can get them there, Thank them for taking the time to tell you how you got it wrong.

Only four percent of dissatisfied customers ever say anything. The remaining 96% walk away, and not quietly. A recent study by the White House Office on Consumer Affairs found that bad news travels fast; for every one person hearing praise, two will hear a bad customer service story.

When things go wrong, empathize.

Next, make it clear that you understand their pain before moving ahead. Rushing forward without clearly understanding the customer could appear disrespectful, aggravating instead of resolving their problem. Be patient. It doesn’t take a lot of time, but listening is essential.

When things go wrong, take ownership.

Always take full responsibility. Customer Service Representatives are ambassadors of sorts. They may be the only humans customers interact with directly particularly in an eCommerce world, and that email or phone call represents the difference between utter frustration and a great story about “a disaster” resolved.

When things go wrong, fix them.

Finally, offer assistance. Generally the fix, whatever that is, takes far less time than the steps to get there. However, without addressing the underlying problem and the very real frustrations accompanying it, you cannot hope to succeed.

According to Inc. magazine, particularly in a digital marketplace where customer reviews and testimonials are available for review, shared widely, and searched prior to making buying decisions, eight out of ten customers walk away from companies with negative customer reviews. Unhappy customers are three times more likely than happy counterparts to relay their experiences. Moreover, once bad reviews are out, it takes 12 positive reviews to make up for one bad experience. Ouch.

So, how did we resolve our lonely star problem? 

Knowing firsthand the care and quality going into every item we produce, package by hand, and ship, I was curious to know what went wrong. I was promptly advised by a colleague and relieved to learn — we receive this specific feedback all the time. ALL THE TIME?

I was stunned to open the package and find acrylic display units that are tinted a medium shade of blue. They are not clear as advertised and you cannot see the item being displayed because of the blue overlay.

Our customer barely had time to complain. Less than 30 minutes later, we responded. We thanked them for their business; immediately after, we acknowledged their concern. Taking full responsibility, we delivered an honest explanation of why the customer saw what they did, explained it, and promptly advised them how to make it right. (Peel off the colored protective wrapping.) We thanked them again for their business, because you can never say “thank you” enough, and closed by asking them to contact us immediately if there were other issues. We had it right all along, AND got the customer service interaction right the first time.

In our case, we understood the concern, and it was easy to explain — protective wrapping covered the customer’s item, making it appear blue. We explained that the masking is precautionary, ensuring that items arrive without scratches. Suddenly, an apparent disaster was in reality an additional step to ensure a satisfactory outcome.

On that day, we mastered the art of getting it right, the first time. Adding these simple steps to your customer service process may not prevent mistakes, but will go a long way in establishing credibility and confidence in your business.

For more, please explore and share our infographic below.

Getting Customer Service Right the First Time [Infographic]