Two smiling men shake hands in a kitchen. The man on the left is taller and elderly, with thinning white hair and a white beard. He is wearing a long-sleeved gray collared shirt. The man on the right is using his other hand to grasp the handle of a large toolbox. He has dark hair and a dark beard, and he wears dark blue overalls over a chambray button-up shirt. In the background is a stainless steel refrigerator, several white cabinets, and a wall holding a few small wooden shelves.
After you've taken action and found a solution to the customer's problem, make sure to check back in and see that the solution was carried out to the customer's satisfaction. — Getty Images/Studio4

Each time a customer interacts with your business is an opportunity to strengthen your brand and build a valuable relationship. Great customer service is essential in helping your business stand out from its competitors. Your company’s response when things go wrong is equally as important as providing an exceptional experience.

Here’s how to effectively transform a negative customer experience into a positive one.

Respond quickly

When faced with a customer stuck in a challenging situation, acting quickly shows your business cares and prevents the incident from spiraling out of control. Consider creating a reference guide to empower your team and streamline the process of responding to customer complaints.

[Read more: How to Handle Negative Customer Reviews]

Listen to understand

The quickest way to diffuse an escalated interaction is to give the customer your undivided attention as they fully communicate their frustration. Training your employees to engage in active listening and have thoughtful conversations leads to more effective solutions. Patience is powerful. Don’t interrupt or jump to conclusions about the problem. Once the customer has shared their experience, confirm their concerns and ask follow-up questions to fully understand the issue.

Empathize with the customer

Let the customer know you understand what they are experiencing and make it clear you are there to help. Use calm language, and avoid saying no or making excuses. It is more productive to steer the conversation to creative solutions you can offer — within company policy — rather than fixating on what cannot be done. Avoid arguing with the customer and instead use phrases that communicate a genuine commitment to their satisfaction.

[Read more: Customer Complaints: 5 Tips for Handling Unsatisfied Clients]

The path to excellent service is a balance of being reactive and proactive.

Take action

Let the customer know that whatever negative experience they had is not in line with your company’s values or quality of service. Work through all potential solutions with them — whether it be a refund, a complimentary product or service, or a reshipment of their failed order.

When you’ve determined which path forward feels most helpful and appropriate for the situation, talk the customer through how you plan to execute the solution you’ve decided on. Then, work with your team to expedite the process and see it through.

[Read more: Expert Advice for Productively Dealing with Angry Customers Online]

Follow up with the customer

Your initial intervention may have turned the customer optimistic and appreciative, but if the solution offered is not carried out, you risk causing even more damage. Follow up internally throughout the process to ensure the action plan is carried out.

Depending on the scope of the problem and the appropriate response, a full resolution may take some time and involve various teams. Lastly and most importantly, circle back to the customer to see if they are satisfied and show your appreciation for their business.

Improve the customer experience for the next time

Every challenge is an opportunity to learn and improve. The path to excellent service is a balance of being reactive and proactive. Here are tips to be more forward-thinking in your approach:

  • Invest in your employees. Your customer service staff and management are the face of the company. Empower them with guidelines and clear processes to ensure consistency and a unified tone across customer interactions. Create opportunities for your team to provide feedback. Identify any lack of resources holding them back from offering high-quality service and solutions.
  • Analyze the consumer journey. The best way to understand your customers’ needs is to understand their experience. Tap into the experts at your company who interact with consumers at each juncture. Review customer acquisition metrics, listen in on calls, and go through the process of purchasing your product or services. This exercise will reveal areas of improvement, offer insight into your customers’ needs, and highlight where your company excels.
  • Make it feel customized. When working with a smaller customer base, you have the opportunity to carefully curate their experience and add warmth and personalization to each interaction. If your company processes a high volume of transactions, consider automating communications and offering perks to help customers feel valued. Finally, use marketing tools to target your customers’ interests and interact with them. Research shows soliciting customer feedback and following up after transactions builds loyalty.

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