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How to Win a Customer for Life

In one week, I became a lifelong customer of one business and I walked out of another business forever. These personal experiences of customer service are examples of why some companies thrive in tough economic times and some have a sagging bottom line.

THE HORROR STORY:
Looking into the mirror at my formerly auburn hair, I wondered if the large audience I was scheduled to address the next day would notice the three dazzling colors on my headlight red, dark red, and an electric shade of purple. Somehow my $100-a-pop-plus-tips beauty salon in San Francisco had turned me out with a badly done color job.

I arranged another appointment with Mimi, the colorist, at the salon which is an hour’s drive from my home. In discussing my tri-colors, Mimi became defensive and informed me that I “didn’t understand hair” and that the purple didn’t look that purple to her. This really rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t make another appointment to be told I didn’t “understand.” All I wished was to have things put right. Instead Mimi treated me as though I should have the knowledge of a professional hair colorist.

I was left sitting like a little kid while she fussed over another customer, treating her like a queen. (Was I being punished?) By now, I was angry, embarrassed and feeling intimidated. When Mimi began her work on my hair I was scared. What would she do next? Would it all be purple? Could I trust her?

Well, my hair turned out OK. But, why was I, the customer, made to feel in the wrong? Why was I the one suffering from embarrassment and discomfort?

Mimi’s assistant had told me, “Mimi never makes mistakes.” Now I admire anyone who is at the top of their trade. However, we all make mistakes, and you only compound them when you won’t admit it.

THEY MISSED ME!
A few days later, I experienced The Ultimate Hat Trick. Wearing a great new hat (to cover my less vibrant purple hair), I attended a wine tasting event. My enthusiastic friend waved his glass in my direction and knocked off my hat, drenching it with red wine. It was ruined, or so I thought.

After the wine tasting, I took my hat to several cleaners. None of them would try to clean it. I thought of Greene’s, a local cleaners that I used to patronize until another one moved closer to my office. I remembered Greene’s because they had sent me a card when I stopped bringing them my clothing. They wanted me back, they missed me. So, I went to Greene’s with my hat. They took the hat and cleaned it beautifully — at no charge!

I asked, “Why no charge?” and the owner, Pete Smith said, “Because we want you for a customer and we’ll do just about anything to keep you.” The freebie made me feel good, like someone special.

Pete’s staff must be either family or they’re highly paid, because they’re unfailingly cheerful and friendly, no matter how busy and no matter what I ask them to do. Besides, they call me by name. I love it.

WILL I EVER GO BACK?
Greene’s is it for me forever. And the beauty salon — will I ever go back? Will I recommend the place? You know the answers.

Freebies won’t get customers for life, but good feelings will. Make your customers feel good and they’ll come back. People want to believe that you care about them as individuals, that you’re listening, that you care. Empathy works, personal attention works, extra effort works.

Your customers will never return if you intimidate or ignore them. If you’re defensive and angry, your customer feels uncomfortable and embarrassed. Too embarrassed to come back.

Research shows that 74% of all American shoppers will buy something at the first store they go into if they are just treated right. Researchers also found that shoppers may forget what they purchase, but they do remember how they were treated, how they were made to feel. Nordstrom Manager, Peter Devin, tells me that his salespeople like to “shock customers with how far we will go to please them.” And, The Limited chain of sportswear stores promises, “No Sale Is EVER Final.”

DON’T BE A PAIN
In Northern California, where I live, my friends from out of town love to visit the wineries. No one seems to remember which wines they tasted. But, everyone has a story to tell about the places where the hospitality staff was fun, paid them special attention, and made it easy to buy their wine.

More than price, more than location, more than merchandise, people buy your products and use your services because it makes them feel good to do so.

To keep me as your customer for life, just greet me every time; treat me sometimes, never complain, explain, or be a pain.

8 Ways To Win Back An Unhappy Customer:

  1. JUST LISTEN. Let the customer have their say.
  2. CALL PEOPLE BY NAME. “Susan, let’s work this out for you.” 
  3. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY. “We want to make this right.” 
  4. DEFUSE THE SITUATION WITH EMPATHY. “I know just how you feel.”
  5. NO EXCUSES. NO INTIMIDATION. NO JUDGEMENT. Never say: “No one has ever complained about this before.” Say: “I am so sorry it turned out this way for you.” 
  6. NEVER MAKE A CUSTOMER WRONG…. even when they are. You’ve heard it a million times:
    “The Customer Is Always Right!” 
  7. FOLLOW-UP, FOLLOW-UP, FOLLOW-UP right away! By phone, by mail. 
    “I’m calling, Susan, to be sure everything is okay.” 
  8. MAKE YOUR CUSTOMERS FEEL IMPORTANT, AND YOU’VE GOT ‘EM FOR LIFE.

Lynda Paulson

An executive speech coach for over twenty years, Lynda Paulson with Success Strategies is renowned for teaching public speaking and executive presentation skills to professionals, management, and individuals from every walk of life.

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I was surprised and ever so grateful when 350 people simultaneously jumped to their feet offering the most heart warming applause after my City of Hope inspirational speech.  Thank you Lynda!

MariePrincipalMarie Gewirtz Public Relations