BUSINESS MARKETING: A complaint brings a 'moment of truth'

2013-02-23T09:36:00Z BUSINESS MARKETING: A complaint brings a 'moment of truth' nwitimes.com

Frequently I find a flyer or tri-fold brochure stuffed in my mailbox or stuck in the trim of my front door from a business canvassing the neighborhood.

It’s typically from a small service business, such as house painting, landscaping, carpet cleaner, etc. Every one of these advertisements extol the virtues of these companies and their commitment to quality and value. Most have glowing testimonials from satisfied customers of some sort.

It’s an effective and inexpensive method of attracting new customers, and the great majority of the time everything goes well with the work and customers are satisfied.

But occasionally even the best of companies anger a customer. There is some sort of misunderstanding between customer and company. The issue could be quality of work, value, timeliness or any number of issues, but when (or if) it happens, if the company values its reputation and wants to develop returning customers, the company should regard it as a “moment of truth.” It's the moment when they have an opportunity to make good on those glowing virtues bragged about in their brochures with an immediate, polite, and satisfactory response.

It makes no difference if the complaint is justified or not. Realize that, from the customer’s perspective, the complaint is justified.

Great companies respond by thanking the customer for bringing the matter to their attention, fix the situation and even offer a “thank you for your loyalty” extra service or partial refund just to prove their commitment. After all, the complaining customers are giving them the opportunity to woo them back.

If the complaint is justified and the company is in error, it is a real opportunity to prove your mettle. If the error is systemic, change the system to ensure this error will not happen again and notify the customer about the new procedure, offer inducements to right the wrong and follow-up.

If you sincerely work to apologize and explain the situation that caused the problem, reasonable people who have been satisfied in the past will give you a second chance when you prove your commitment at the “moment of truth.”

Opinions are solely the writer's. Larry Galler, of Larry Galler & Associates, is a marketing and management consultant for small and mid-size companies. Get Galler’s free case study of a small business transformed by a breakthrough strategy. Just email larry@larrygaller.com and put "Case Study" in the subject line.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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