Learn how to improve communication with customers so your business can continue to thrive, even when things go wrong.
Despite your best efforts, customer disputes are bound to happen at least once in a while. Yet even in the midst of a disagreement, it’s possible to save their business if you know how to improve communication with customers who aren’t happy. It isn’t always easy, but it’s also not as difficult as it may seem. And it’s definitely worth the investment of time to learn better communication skills if it means reestablishing a connection with your customers.
In an ideal world, you’ll never have a dispute with a customer. But they do arise, and being prepared for that eventuality can do wonders for saving relationships.
How to improve communication with customers when things don’t go as planned
1. Save the relationship, not the sale
While there’s undoubtedly monetary value attached to saving a customer relationship, it’s important to remember that the relationship itself is what you’re trying to salvage, not the money. A sour customer relationship may lead not only to lost profits from them, but it could result in losing more customers from bad reviews, which can be very difficult to dig yourself out of.
Instead of thinking about how to save the profits, though, think about how you would save any other relationship. This is where knowing how to improve communication with customers becomes essential because the first step towards repairing any relationship is communication.
Talk to your angry customer about the problem, and the redeemed profits will come naturally. On the other hand, if you come across as only being interested in saving your wallet, your customer is less likely to be receptive. (Think about the relationships in your life. Would your partner or colleague be as forgiving if they thought you were just out for yourself? Probably not.)
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2. What to say and how to say it
So how do you improve customer communications? You start by being upfront and proactive. Pick up the phone and call them. We recommend you start with the phone, as an email may not feel as personal, and is easier to discard. If a disgruntled customer refuses to speak to your or won’t answer the phone, email is an option, but a phone call speaks volumes about your desire to repair the relationship.
When you do get hold of them, don’t beat around the bush. Tell them why you’re calling—that you regret the dispute, that you want to repair the relationship—so that they know you’re not just trying to make another sale. In general, transparency is the key to better communication, and it’s even better when you’re direct and when you take the initiative from your end. After all, on the surface, it looks like you’ve got more to lose from a tattered relationship. Help your customer to see what they’ll lose if they stop doing business with you.
3. Know what to avoid
Successful salespeople know how to improve communication with customers by knowing what tactics to avoid, as well. Try to stay away from strategies that don’t involve direct, one-on-one interaction, such as mailings or even gifts. There will be a time to show your remorse through deals or tokens of appreciation, but you first have to rebuild the trust that’s been lost.
Of course, it’s critical to avoid placing any blame on the customer, even if they were the one who was wrong. Swallow your pride and apologize for your part. Doing so not only demonstrates your remorse, but it also disarms them a bit, taking the venom out of the situation and opening the door for further discussions. If you’re lucky, you might even find them apologizing back to you!
One other thing to stay away from is lingering on the apology or dispute too long. A secret to improving communication with customers is to focus on the positive as well as the outcome you want. Dwelling on something can give it renewed life, even if you’re trying to say you wish it hadn’t happened. When you get your customer on the phone, admit your part in the dispute, say you’re sorry and move on.
To give up or not to give up
Communication is a skill, but sometimes even the best fall short of their goals. Part of being a good communicator is knowing when to quit. If you badger a customer who’s already displeased with you, it’s going to result in a pretty lousy reputation besides the single lost relationship. Make a couple of attempts to get in touch over the phone, send an email as one last gesture, then put it to rest. In the end, a relationship relies on two people. All you can do is your part in trying to save it. If the other side refuses, persistence will only make it worse.
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