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  • Alex Nielsen

Turn Unhappy Customers into Super Fans

How many sales has your team made this year? How many of those do you specifically remember? Why do you remember them? Chances are, for better or worse, some of your most memorable interactions involve an unhappy customer.


As a merchant, you inevitably have to work with a dissatisfied customers. Some customers are going to be unhappy no matter what (I do believe in such a thing as “bad” customers). But the vast majority of your unhappy customers are super fans in waiting.


Why? Because conflict comes with an opportunity to make a meaningful connection through its resolution. Real human connection fosters fierce loyalty.


Here are some tips that we use in our own organization that can work for you, whether you sell via bricks or clicks.


Be Proactive


Identify and solve problems before the customer has much time to stew on it. In some situations, you may be able to solve a problem BEFORE a customer even brings it to your attention.


Just this morning, I was browsing reviews on our brand’s products. I noticed a really bad review of a particular item — the customer was disappointed that the product she received was not even close to what she ordered. Within seconds, I could tell that there was a warehouse mix up. The product pictured was not ours.


Using her name on the review, I was able to find her order and create a warehouse order for the correct product. She will be receiving the correct product in two days. I sent her a quick note apologizing for the mix up and letting her know that her replacement was on its way.


Whether this particular customer turns into a super fan is yet to be seen, but the stage is set and all without her having to even contact our customer service team.


Don’t Penny Pinch


How much is a five star review worth to you? I don’t care if you sell online or in stores only, reviews matter more than ever. You and your team are on a worldwide stage.


Your natural tendency as a merchant is to run lean and cut expenses where you can. Recruiting super fans is one place where you can afford to make a few exceptions.


For online sellers, this may mean expediting shipping on replacement products or being a bit liberal in applying your return policy.


For clicks and bricks, this may mean giving the occasional “We’re sorry, give us another chance” gift card or store credit in addition to remedying the problem.


Empower Your Team


It’s one thing to be able to make an experience special as an owner or manager. But even more important is that you empower your team to create super fans.


This means establishing clear guidelines for your customer-facing team to operate within so that they know when they can solve a problem on their own or need to take it “up the chain”.


And for goodness sake, don’t come down on a well-meaning team member if they take a slightly different approach than you would have. If you want to squash a customer-centric culture quickly, reprimand somebody for trying to do the right thing. You can and should take opportunities to coach, but be careful not to deflate morale in the process.


Avoid the Blame Game


There are a dozen points of failure between you and your customer, even if you are bricks only. You can’t control everything, but you can guide the message and experience for your customer. Because you are ultimately the owner of the experience


Product defective? Make it right, don’t blame the manufacturer. After all, you chose to carry the product.


Customer over-charged? Make it right, don’t blame the system. After all, you chose the system.


Shipment arrived damaged? Make it right, don’t blame the carrier. After all, you chose the carrier.


The customer doesn’t care whose fault it is, only that it gets corrected. Own the experience.