How To Save Face

It’s happened to all of us: the rude customer service agent, the To-go order with no utensils, the long waiting times, and an all-around awful experience. Since it’s happened to all of us, it stands to reason that every business has had a hand in giving customers a bad experience. So how do companies save face, keep their integrity, and maintain customer loyalty?

The product recall: Most of us would consider a product recall to be a bad sign for a company. However, a voluntary recall can actually help the company! When companies voluntarily recall a product for safety reasons, they show that they care about their customers more than their profits. A voluntary recall also allows the company to maintain control of the situation and the communication about the situation, rather than letting customers and reporters dictate communication. Take the Tylenol recall by Johnson and Johnson in 1982. After several fatal incidents, it was found that Tylenol had been poisoned by someone from the outside. Johnson and Johnson took the product off the shelves, and re-introduced it with heavier packaging to ensure that no one could tamper with their products. This prompt and thorough reaction helped company maintain its reputation of trust, and now Tylenol is one of the most popular over-the-counter drugs on the market.

The immediate fix: Sometimes it’s unnecessary to completely recall a product, and a “quick-fix” can help a company save face. While shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond, I heard a customer trying to return an office chair at Customer Service. He stated that the chair would not maintain its height when he adjusted it. After looking at the model number, the Customer Service employee stated that the manufacturer was aware of the problem, and was offering a special part for free to fix the issues with the adjustment. She gave the part to the customer with simple instructions, and he left happy with the result. By simply taking action to resolve a problem, the manufacturer kept their customers happy in spite of a problem with the initial product. Most food establishments manage problems this way, by offering to re-make your drink, or throw your steak back on the grill for an extra minute if it is under-cooked. The immediate fix can be a face-saving and money-saving tool.

Give a genuine apology: This may sound like a given, but sometimes customers just want an apology. If there is a way to offer an immediate fix, companies should take time to make these offers to customers. However, if there’s not a quick fix, find a way to offer a genuine apology. Most customers are frustrated because they feel that companies just don’t care about them, and that because companies don’t care, problems will continue to arise. By offering a genuine apology, a timeline for corrective action, and assurance that it will not happen in the future, a company can show that it does care about its customers.

Bad experiences are going to happen, but it’s how you deal with the situation that seals the deal for customers. What are your strategies for dealing with customers who have a bad experience?

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