Managing dissatisfied customers in organisations

DISSATISFIED customers are inevitable in each and every line of business due to many reasons. The existence of “dissatisfied customers” is not a myth but a reality in organisations’ day to day operations.

guest column: Emmanuel Zvada

Managing dissatisfied customers is not an issue of small magnitude to organisations that thrive to survive in the volatile, dynamic and ever-changing business environment because acquiring new customers involves costs that can be significant and may even take years to turn a new customer into a profitable one. Dissatisfied clients have a tendency of becoming “terrorists” to the organisation through a plethora of ways such as bad mouthing the organisation, switching suppliers, taking the organisation for litigation to mention a few ways, which in turn erodes the reputation of the organisation.

If a customer (or client) is disgruntled, the first step is to identify and define their dissatisfaction. Their wants and needs first must be uncovered and defined to see if the features and benefits of your company’s product or services can satisfy those wants and needs. The root cause of customer dissatisfaction comes from the product or the service they are getting. Business always starts and ends with customers, and hence the customers must be treated as the king of the market. All the business enhancements, profit, status, image etc of the organisation depends on customers, hence it is important for all the organisations to meet all the customers’ expectations so that they will not be disgruntled.

If you deal with customers on a daily basis, be sure to stay patient when they come to you stumped and frustrated, but also be sure to take the time to truly figure out what they want, they would rather get competent service than be shown the door. Do not go angry on them, but rather be patient.

It is very prudent for every organisation that has encountered customer dissatisfaction to take them to a back office and apply the HEAT approach as a remedy.

H- Hear out the customer through listening to his version of the story. Organisations should incline their ears to the plight or complaints of the customers with a positive mindset that is tailor made to find out the root cause and implement an effective solution to the problem that has caused dissatisfaction. The ability to really listen to customers is so crucial for providing great service for a number of reasons. Not only is it important to pay attention to individual customer interactions (watching the language/terms that they use to describe their problems), but it’s also important to be mindful and attentive to the feedback that you receive at large.

A good salesperson is always attentive and this will avoid asking the clients the same things he had already said. As a way of hearing out the customer do not criticise for the sake of it, instead paraphrase what you have heard from the customer as a sign of togetherness, and ask open-ended questions in a bid to probe for more clarification into the complaint or cause of dissatisfaction. Listening does not simply involve hearing. It means paying attention, empathising with the customer and responding to their stated and unstated needs. When people feel listened to and valued, a relationship is born. A customer may get what he needs from the organisation, but if it was delivered with indifference, that interaction will leave a negative impression.

E- Be empathetic to the customer. Put yourself in the shoes of the customer. Apply the golden rule principle which states that “do unto others as you want them to do unto you”. Organisations should ask themselves how would they feel if what has been done to the customer had been done to them. Also, what sought of action would I want to be taken. Show the customer you care about them. When you have understood the problem and apologised for it, it is time to do something about it. Assess the situation to see if you are able to fix the problem instantly, or if you would require some time.

It is greatly advisable that you provide a sense of assurance that you understand the situation and are on top of things. If the situation requires you to follow up with the customer, do so. Acting on your promise to follow up with the customer will indicate sincerity, accountability and that you are serious about getting it right the second time.
It is also important to note that whether your customer is right or wrong, he is a customer and should be treated with respect.

A- Apologise to the customer on behalf of whosoever is wrong in the organisation. Admit the collective responsibility of your colleagues’ actions. Lower your voice as you plead for forgiveness. Humble yourself as you answer questions brought forward by the customer and do not be jittery. Always remember that a “soft answer turns away wrath but harsh words stir up anger”. Avoid by all means the blame game when managing a dissatisfied customer’s situation as this will frustrate the already dissatisfied customer. When a complaint is about a specific employee, ensure that feedback is provided promptly; instead of blaming the employee, try to address the difficulty that he may be facing.

T- Take an appropriate action. Action should be taken regardless of who is responsible. It should not be selectively applied. Recommendations of action can be taken in consultation with the customer if possible. Various forms of action can be taken such verbal warning, suspension from work and even termination from work depending on the severity of the matter. However, for these actions to be implemented a thorough hearing should be done.

The long and short is that it is tried and tested that dissatisfied customers need to be managed effectively so that organisations do not find themselves being relegated into the business graveyard. Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning, hence the customers must be treated with great care.

 Emmanuel Zvada writes in his own capacity. He is a human capital consultant and international recruitment expert

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