Turning Dissatisfied Customers into Evangelists

The US Post Office managed to crush the CD-ROM of our software. When the customer called, we answered within three rings, emailed him the software, and got a replacement copy in the mail that day.

He emailed us that our customer service beat any software vendor he'd ever dealt with.

According to the Research Institute of America for the White House Office of Consumer Affairs:

  • The average business will hear nothing from 96 percent of unhappy clients. In other words, only 4 percent will bother to complain. So, for every complaint you hear, twenty-four others go unreported.
  • 90 percent of dissatisfied clients will not come back or buy again.
  • Every dissatisfied client will tell at least nine other people.
  • 68 percent of clients who stop doing business with you do so because of company indifference.
  • Of the customers who register a complaint, up to 70 percent will do business with the organization again if their complaint is resolved. Up to 95 percent will do business if the problem is resolved quickly.

To motivate your customer or client to stay with you after you've dropped the ball for some reason, consider going the extra mile to establish rapport when they call or appear to complain. What do I mean by this?

Physical Rapport 
Stand, breathe, hold your head, and tap your foot in alignment and rhythm with them. Your physical posture should be a mirror image of theirs. Remember: mirroring isn't mimicking unless you're trying to make fun of them. Watch any loving couple at a restaurant and you'll see that they mirror each other constantly.

Verbal Rapport 
Adjust your tone and tempo to match theirs. If they talk faster…talk a little faster. If they talk slower…talk a little slower. Call them by their name.

Word Rapport
Use the same words they use. Never paraphrase. If they say "tomato" don't say "vegetable"; it's not the same word. If they talk in seeing, hearing, or feeling words, use their vocabulary. In other words, if they say: "I feel like this isn't working correctly", don't say: "I can see that" … say: "Help me get a handle on what isn't working." Their words mean a lot to them; by using their words you are subconsciously telling them that they mean a lot to you as well.

The "meta-message"
The unconscious message you're sending to your dissatisfied client is "I care about you and your problem with our product or service." Remember Stephen Covey said: "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Pace and Lead 
Here's the secret to keeping your customer: by aligning with them physically and verbally, you've taken the first step toward "pacing" their complaint. Now you want to repeat their problem and lead them toward a solution:
"I appreciate that you're having a problem with X and here's a couple of ways we can resolve that for you…1)…2)…3)."

  1. First you "pace" the problem by repeating it,
  2. Connect the problem to the solution using the word "and", never the word "but".
  3. Lead the client to a solution or choice of solutions that would best fit their needs.

Use Complaints to Improve Your Business
Every complaining customer is just the tip of the iceberg. Count the number of calls or complaints you get about a given problem or issue. Use this data to reduce or eliminate the root causes of each major kind of complaint, because you can't afford the high cost of handling a customer call or the high cost of losing a customer or the risk of them becoming a crusader against your product.

Remember: You have a chance to turn every complainer into either an evangelist or a crusader. If you handle them properly, 70-95 percent of all complainers can be converted to evangelists for your product or service. Handled poorly, they become crusaders who will tell at least nine other people how poorly you treated them.

Every business lives or dies by its ability to develop repeat and referral customers. If you examine the lifetime value of a customer, you will quickly determine that you can't afford the luxury of an angry customer.

It's up to you. Isn't it time you learned how to turn complainers into evangelists?

Rights to reprint this article in company periodicals is freely given with the inclusion of the following tag line: "© 2008-2024 Jay Arthur, the KnowWare® Man, 888-468-1537, ."