You can have the most award-winning marketing strategy in the world but if your business or organization’s customer experience is bad, no amount of great marketing will erase it. In today’s digital age of information, the whole world’s gonna know when a customer, patient or client has a bad experience. Small businesses are especially at risk, and most are just one bad review away from shuttering their doors forever.
Don’t believe me? A sweet shop in our community thrived until the day a customer shared her entire horrible experience including the private messages shared between them and the shop manager. In this case, the customer’s experience was particularly dreadful and most who read about it were equally outraged. Today, space where the sweet shop once thrived still sits empty, forever marked by the fallout of bad customer service.
This sweet shop’s tale isn’t a rarity. Many businesses across the U.S. have fallen in the wake of bad customer experiences thanks to the very platforms marketers use to attract people to those businesses in the first place. In 2019, the U.S. went nuts for a certain new chicken sandwich at a popular chicken joint, but the restaurant chain barely contained the slew of videos displaying customers and employees fighting or arguing with one another and post after post of customers sharing their dismay over their trip to buy the chicken sandwich wonder. A few years before that, a popular coffee chain experienced backlash after a video surfaced of discrimination against customers in a Northeastern location.
Corporate chain businesses like the chicken joint and coffee shop we mentioned can often bounce back from one bad customer experience simply because they have the financial means to weather the storm. Plus, while one location threatens a chain business another nearby location can help it thrive. I purposely drive to the big box retail location across town rather than to the one that’s 2.3 miles away from my home because the customer service is better. That big-box chain is still getting my business, but if it were a small mom-and-pop store with one location, they would be out of a customer.
Poor customer experiences stem from a few possible causes. Slow, uncaring service often results from poor management or leadership. Sometimes a bad experience is the result of a bad employee. Other times, poor customer experience comes from the business’s inability to connect with its customers or because the business failed to provide its clientele of what was promised.
We’re not just referring to retail businesses. Poor customer experience can also be poor patient experience or poor client experiences. Clinics with poor patient management and bad bedside manners can just as easily drive away business as a retail store with rude employees.
The great news is, preventing bad customer experiences at your business or clinic is 100% in your hands. Train your employees to treat every person who walks through your doors the same, no matter their appearance or social status. Teach by example by staying on your customer/patient service A-game and turn potential poor experiences into a teachable moment for your employees. Your customers/clients/patients should always be the #1 priority, even if that means unpacking a recent shipment or finishing paperwork later in the day. Your customers come first because, without them, you have no business.
Even a bad experience can be quickly turned around by good customer service. Recently, a national pizza chain announced its campaign to end bad customer experiences by re-delivering wrong orders for free on any random day after the bad delivery. It’s hard for a small business to give away merchandise, but listening to the customer, showing remorse for their bad experience, sincerely apologizing for the mistake made by your business, and offering a discount or special rate for a product or service can turn the entire day around for both you and the customer.
Recently, my kids and I were on our way to my grandmother’s house for Sunday lunch when I decided to stop at an automatic car wash. After selecting and paying for the wash I wanted, I drove forward into the wash. The flashy lights and sounds of the automated car wash started up and water sprayed out from a hose above. Then, nothing. The lights and sirens died and the water slowed to a sprinkle. A lone trail of soap ran down the windshield. I sat there for a moment, waiting for it to start back up. I even backed up my car a little and drove forward to the stopping point again, thinking I would trigger the sensors. But, no! Nothing happened.
Frustrated, I drove away and stopped at another wash on the way to get the trail of soap off my windshield. I also sent a private Facebook message to the car wash to let them know what happened. I immediately received an apologetic response and the promise that they were headed to the wash right then to check things out, a refund on my card the next day, and several coupons for discounted car wash services in the mail a few days later. Because of their response, my bad experience quickly became positive and I’m heading back today for a discounted wash.
Should you give away the store every time a customer complains? Absolutely not. Sometimes the customer isn’t right. But you should have a plan in place to address issues quickly including being prepared to offer discounts or an alternative option like a $5-$10 gift card to be used at your business on their next visit if all other efforts to turn around the experience are failing.
The number one key to good customer experiences? Good old-fashioned kindness. Greet customers when they walk in the door. Be excited to help them and teach your team members to be the same way.
Your marketing strategy can’t prevent bad customer experiences, but it can help improve the experience. Newer technologies like AI and automation are being used to help businesses stay more present for their customers or clients, no matter the time of day. Want to learn more about how a new marketing strategy can help your business or clinic’s customer experience? Click here to request a free consultation with Momentum Consulting.