Winning Over Difficult Customers

Customer Experience
Customer Experience
Got angry customers? Good service recovery can turn them into evangelists

It's been noted that, in some cases, companies that right perceived wrongs for customers can turn them into ber-loyal consumers, to the point where they're more likely to become company evangelists than regular customers who've never had a complaint.

Bruce Temkin, vice president and principal analyst of customer experience at Forrester Research, says, "I do believe that good service recovery drives loyalty. When customers run into a problem, their long-term opinion of the company is very vulnerable, so a well-timed and appropriate recovery makes sense for building loyalty."

Such strategies are in play at companies like Southwest Airlines, Home Depot, and supermarket chain Publix, which regularly appear high on BusinessWeek's annual "Customer Service Elite" list.

"Those are companies that are looking at the promises they've made in the marketplace and are making sure the experience at every touchpoint exceeds expectations," says Liz Miller, vice president, programs and operations, at The CMO Council. "Southwest backs up its brand message by featuring low prices and making sure it's very easy to book or change a flight. Home Depot's 'You Can Do It, We Can Help' is built so that, no matter what level the customer is at...they help you find the supplies, offer information on their website, or even take on the job themselves."

These companies, Temkin explains, often design approaches for dealing with negative circumstances. "They don't just recover from the problems; they work hard to eliminate similar problems from happening in the future," he says.

Maria Brous, director of media and community relations at Publix, cites the chain's purchase guarantee, wherein customers can return an unsatisfactory product for a full refund, as a key component of its customer engagement strategy. "Our guarantee extends to products we don't carry," she says. "We will shop at a competitor for our customers and bring that product to the customer to prevent her having to go around to several different stores."

In other words, by better understanding each customer's experiences and expectations, a company stands a greater chance of retaining customers when its service or product fails to deliver on their expectations.