This is the second installment of Bill Pollock’s SmartVan series about how service organizations can turn dissatisfied customers into satisfied ones. To read the first installment, click here. Perhaps the best way to look at the different types of dissatisfied customers you will deal with is to categorize them into the following three classifications:

  • Chronically dissatisfied customers
  • Event-driven dissatisfied customers
  • Temporarily dissatisfied customers

Of the three, the chronically dissatisfied customers are the most difficult to convert. However, the event-driven and temporarily dissatisfied customers should be relatively easy to convert.

Chronically Dissatisfied Customers

The chronically dissatisfied customers are those who are typically dissatisfied with your customer service and support no matter what you do to please them. They’re likely unhappy with the equipment, and have probably felt that way for a long time. They may have experienced repeated equipment failures in the past and might blame the repeat service calls on your technical skills and ability, rather than on the machine itself. Whether right or wrong, there’s little you can do about it — except to handle the interaction with a smile on your face and do everything under your control properly, effectively and quickly.

Event-Driven Dissatisfied Customers

While some of the chronically dissatisfied customers may not really have a specific reason to be unhappy, the event-driven dissatisfied customers do have a specific reason. It’s your job to find out why as quickly as possible. The reason itself may be related to the product, the support or possibly something they read online or heard from a colleague. For example, some customers may be unhappy because of a system failure that they unintentionally caused. They might believe that the failure could have been avoided if they had easier access to current documentation or instructions. While this group may be as unhappy as the chronically dissatisfied customers, the customers often just want their services provider to fix the problem as quickly as possible. Of course, this is also a good time to provide the customer with up-to-date product information to help them avoid similar problems in the future.

Temporarily Dissatisfied Customers

This group may also have several reasons to be unhappy. Maybe they’re frustrated with a long streak of “bad luck” with the product, whether caused by repeated failures or unsatisfactory operational efficiency. Now’s your time to reassure them that the company is taking the appropriate steps to keep the machine up and running — and that you will ensure they are satisfied with the solution.

Or, it may be that the customer recently experienced a streak of “bad service and support” from you personally and, as a result, is antsy about your technical ability or customer service competence. If so, the only way to regain the customer’s confidence is to arrive on time, perform the repair quickly, and get the job done — time, after time, after time. Earn their respect. Customers are generally consistent in their demands, expectations and opinions regarding the equipment you support. What they will be looking for from you is the same kind of consistency from your technical skills, customer service and support performance. If you are able to provide this consistency, you’ll keep customers happy. But if you cannot, you run the risk of having unhappy customers, with long-term problems, across the board.

Two Common Interactions

We have found that there are basically two types of situations that you will continually be faced with for any dissatisfied customer:

  • Situations you can proactively do something about.
  • Situations where there is really nothing you can do to make them happy.

In the former, use your customer service tools, common sense, intuition and historical knowledge of the customer to make things right. Afterwards, be sure to follow-up to assure the customer that you’re there to help. In the latter, rely on a combination of damage control, hand-holding and TLC until the customer’s dissatisfaction has been stabilized and, hopefully, you can introduce some real customer service improvements. Admittedly, these situations will be frustrating for both you and the customer at the outset; however, you can only do what you can do, with the tools you have available. There will also be situations where ongoing follow-ups will be required to make the customer feel comfortable with your service and support.