A consumer action website recently obtained a copy of the playbook used by the AOL “customer service’ rep when he stubbornly refused to cancel the customer’s account. What’s clear is that even though that guy got fired, he hadn’t simply gone rogue. He was just a little overly enthusiastic in his use of the company’s manual. Take a look at the manual here. Trying hard to keep unhappy customers is a worthwhile strategy. Refusing to cancel their service is abusive.
There was an old rule of thumb that happy customers tell two people and unhappy customers tell ten. Now, through the miracle of modern technology, those unhappy customers are likely to tell ten thousand “friends”. As this article from the Washington Post highlights unhappy customers are not suffering in silence. Two recent examples have caught the nation’s attention. First, when AOL refused to let a customer cancel their account, that customer taped the call and sent it across the internet. Suddenly AOL was being roasted and toasted on The Today Show. In that case, the unhappy customer probably told ten MILLION others how horrible AOL was to deal with. Similarly, when a Comcast cable installer fell asleep on a customer’s couch, the customer videotaped the fool and broadcast it. The ultimate irony is that the installer fell asleep because Comcast had put HIM on hold for an hour. It just went from bad to worse for Comcast.
Here are a couple of ideas. Let’s start with the obvious, your business, any business, is built on happy customers. Only delighted customers are truly brand loyal. All the rest, even pretty happy customers, are in play. The only worthwhile goal is delighted customers. Second, when you stub your toe with a customer, make it right. Say your sorry and fix it. If you can’t fix it, at least communicate your point of view clearly and courteously. Finally, pay attention to what people are really saying and thinking about you. Don’t blithely assume that everyone’s happy because they have come back a few times.
Take a hint from Ed Koch the former mayor New York city. Any time he saw a group of people, he’d ask “How am I doing?” And he always waited for the answer. I know. I was one of the people he asked. But that’s another story.