Sometimes, things just don’t go your way. As hard as we might try to leave every customer glowing with satisfaction, there will always be forces beyond our control, hell-bent on getting in the way.
New stock can come in late. Websites can crash. Non-express shipping can take eons. Staff can get sick. Whatever the reason, if you have an angry customer blowing up your inbox, phone, or online reviews, it’s not the end of the world. In fact, you might even consider it an opportunity.
Turning complaints around
Once, I purchased several t-shirts online. When they arrived, one of the shirts was an XXL rather than the medium I had ordered.
I was a little bit cross about that – because the store was based in America, shipping had taken weeks, and I was looking forward to wearing it. So I sent their support team an email, telling them they’d made a mistake, only half-expecting any sort of apology. To my surprise, one of their team members – a real life human – swiftly replied. He told me to keep the shirt and give it to an XXL friend, and to expect a medium sized replacement in the mail within the week. Two days later, a shirt arrived by priority mail – of course, they covered the cost – and they even included some free sticker decals of their logo, which I stuck on my laptop.
I was suddenly far less grumpy with them. So what happened here?
The company did a few things:
They replied immediately. Even more surprisingly, they replied immediately despite being in a completely different timezone. It turned out, they had set up a designated email address for complaints, which they made easy to find on their website. They employed a 24/7 skeleton crew to monitor this and ensure complaints were responded to quickly, no matter what time of the day or night they arrived.
They admitted their mistake. They apologised for their mistake. There were no excuses, or attempts to shift the blame. And by being so upfront about their blunder, they made it far, far easier to forgive them.
They went above and beyond to fix it. Not only did they replace the shirt, they let me keep the old one and paid for priority mail to get it to me, from America, in just two days.
Now, this company wasn’t small. They’d been around for years, and currently employ (after a quick Google) roughly 60 people. It seems like they can afford to go above and beyond when it comes to unhappy customers.
But even for smaller companies without the same budget – there’s a lesson to be learned. Admit, and fix, your mistakes as quickly as possible, in the best way you can afford to. Sure, some angry customers won’t accept any apology, no matter how reasonable or sincere. But for many, it doesn’t take a lot to win them over.
I still return to shop with this shirt company today. I love their product, and I respect their business ethic.
I’m also extremely impressed that within 48 hours, they managed to turn me from a disgruntled customer, to a man who proudly displayed their company’s logo on my computer for years.