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How to turn a bad customer experience into a good one

A record merchant meeting with a customer to discuss a purchase.

It’s a fact of life as a business owner and you need to learn to accept it. You can have the best marketing strategy and offer an amazing product for a great price, but every once in a while you’ll have a customer who isn’t entirely happy. 

There are many reasons why a customer is dissatisfied. Maybe there was a delay in their delivery, they could have gotten a faulty product, or they simply had unrealistic expectations. It’s not necessarily your fault but the result is the same and it can be damaging. 

When this happens, it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the world. Your business’s resilience and customer ties are put to the test not when everything is running like clockwork but when something goes wrong. 

In this article, we’ll discuss how to use this as an opportunity to shine and what you can do to strengthen your customer relationships and reputation after a bad customer experience.

Why you should care about customer experience

A business is nothing without its customers so it’s crucial to make sure their dealings with you are as smooth and pleasant as can be.

Here are some of the damages a disgruntled customer can cause your business:  

  • Loss of future income. A disappointed customer is more likely to take their business elsewhere. 
  • Damaged reputation. Whether through word of mouth or a public online review, an unhappy customer can hurt your good name and discourage new (or even existing) customers from seeking your services in the future.
  • Missed opportunities. You can forget about referrals bringing in new customers if your existing clientele doesn’t feel like they’re getting the best service. 

6 things you can do to improve customer experience

Even after a bad experience, it’s not too late to repair the damage and fix your customer’s opinion about your business. Here’s how.

1. Respond ASAP

Nobody likes to feel ignored and that is especially true for customers who are trusting you with their money and business. 

When you get a complaint from a customer, prioritize quick response times. Even just reaching out to let the customer know you’re on top of things can give them a better impression of you and help rebuild trust. 

Responding quickly is even more important when the complaint is public, for example, an online review or a comment on your business’s Facebook page. If potential customers get the impression that complaints go unattended, they would be hard-pressed to engage with your business.

2. Listen (REALLY listen) and empathize

We’ve all heard the saying “The customer is always right.” But, anyone who ran a business for more than 10 minutes will tell you that isn’t necessarily the case. 

A customer might lose their cool even when you’re not at fault. It can be anything from a simple misunderstanding on their part to a complete overreaction to a minor delay beyond your control. 

Still, even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, avoid placing blame on your customer. To defuse a situation, practice active listening to understand your customer’s frustration and where they’re coming from. 

Remember that apologizing for any inconvenience caused to your customer doesn’t mean you are accepting blame. It can just help them feel heard and respected. From there, you can move on to finding a solution that would work for both of you, according to the circumstances.

3. Act quickly and effectively

Once you’ve agreed on a solution—for example, replacing the product, issuing a refund, or arranging additional support—make sure it’s provided in a timely and professional manner. 

Confirm everyone involved on your team is informed and aware of what they need to do next. You don’t want a bottleneck to create further disappointment after you’ve made progress to resolve the issue and fix your relationship.

4. Follow up

Once the issue is resolved on your end, reach out to the customer again to inform them of the steps you’ve taken and make sure they are satisfied. An email or a short phone call at this point can go a long way to make your customers feel valued after a less pleasant incident. 

Walking them through the changes you’ve made to the way you operate as a result of their issue will show just how seriously you take their concerns.

5. Offer a win-back promotion

Another way to make customers feel appreciated and encourage them to stay on despite a previous dispute is by making them an offer they wouldn’t want to refuse. A discount, a free product, or better payment terms for their next purchase can all serve as incentives to walk back through your door.

6. Learn from the experience

A negative experience with a customer can still be a positive learning opportunity. Take the incident as a chance to reexamine your business process. For example, is there a way to make it more efficient? Can communications with customers be clearer? Can you improve response times? Should you switch to a faster courier? 

No matter what changes you choose to implement following an incident with a customer, it’s important to Inform your team about what went wrong. It’s also crucial to instruct them on how to act in the future, to minimize or resolve similar issues.

Prevent bad customer experiences in the first place

While it’s not always possible to completely eliminate bad customer experiences, there are some preemptive measures you can take. 

  • Communicate clearly. It’s important to always be transparent about your prices, terms, and estimated delivery times. When everything is made clear in advance, there’s far less room for disappointment. 
  • Don’t over-promise. Many business owners eager to secure a sale tend to make big promises. That’s a sure recipe for underdelivering. It’s better to be clear and honest about what you can or can’t provide than to give your customers false hopes that are bound to disappoint. 
  • Train your employees. Make sure your team is familiar with your business’s policies and knows how to handle customers with the required sensitivity and professionalism. 
  • Make payment a breeze. A common source of frustration among customers is an inefficient payment process. Make sure you offer the payment options your customers are looking for, including credit cards and online payments.
    If you’re a business-to-business (B2B) company,Business-to-business (B2B)Business-to-business (B2B) refers to operations done between businesses. B2B payments are transactions made between two businesses or companies. consider using an online payments platform like Melio to process your incoming payments. This way, your customers can choose the payment methods that fit their workflows and needs, while you get your money however you like, via ACH bank transferACH bank transferACH is a type of electronic bank-to-bank transfer that goes through the Automated Clearing House network (hence its name). or paper check.

Seize the opportunity

While dealing with an unhappy customer can be challenging it’s also an opportunity to improve. Don’t miss out on it! Following the strategies outlined above will help you win back your customer’s trust and prevent further issues.  

Looking for a place to start? Sign up for Melio today to make it easier for your business customers to pay you. A smoother transaction makes a happier customer. It’s as simple as that.

*This blog post is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.
**Melio does not provide legal, tax or accounting advice, and you should consult with a professional advisor before making any financial decisions.