Learn or churn

First, think of some companies spending huge amounts of money on advertising; those with TV advertisements in slots around programs with large viewing figures is a good place to start. Next, consider your perception of the quality of the customer service offered by these companies.
Many companies are hemorrhaging customers due to poor service and at the same time spending a fortune on trying to get new ones. Now call me old fashioned, but if these companies spent some time and money trying to understand the reasons they are losing customers and then doing something about it they would find themselves with a win, win, win situation. Customers would be happier (and more likely to recommend the company to their friends), the company would lose less customers and they could save a fortune in advertising costs.
I admit I have no data to back this up, but I’m happy to go with my gut feeling and leave you out there to agree with, or correct me.

Turning customers around, and dumping a few

You may already have seen an item from the Independent that I tweeted (@rgpmarston) earlier today. It is an article about Public Relations but also contains an example of how to improve your relationship with customers by getting things wrong; a favourite topic of mine.
First let’s get things straight, I’m not implying you should deliberately upset your customers in the hope that by some perverse set of circumstances they will like your business more afterwards. Unfortunately, no matter how hard a business tries it will sometimes upset a customer enough that they will contact you to complain. This act of complaining is in itself good as most people will say nothing and take their business elsewhere; at least you now have an opportunity to turn things around and hopefully learn from the error so that you can stop it happening again.
With some careful handling of the situation, including large helpings of tact and empathy, you should be able to convince the customer that this problem is not usual, you understand the issue (and why it is an issue), you have a plan for resolving the problem and (last but not least) you have a plan to ensure it does not happen in the future.
If a customer believes you are taking their complaint seriously and will resolve their problem they are likely to come away happy and, more importantly, will feel confident about using your business again. They will now feel that IF they ever have another problem you will do the right thing to resolve it, and with this mindset they may use you more or even recommend you to their friends.
There is however a flip side to this as some customer complaints are not reasonable and no matter what you do you will not please them. It is an unfortunate fact of life that some people are unreasonable and in these situations you will just have to accept you can’t win and hope they take their business elsewhere next time. Not all business is good business so be prepared to turn the occasional problem customer away. Just make sure your business is behaving in a proper way and is not morally at fault or lacking the processes to improve itself.
Now your homework for tonight! Think of a business that behaves as I have outlined above then think of one that doesn’t. Next, consider your likely buying patterns in respect of these two businesses. Was I right?