Much of what I have covered in past newsletters has been about how to get new customers. An equally important part of marketing is keeping the customers you have. Today I want to give you a simple but very practical 4 step process for dealing with customer problems.

No matter how great your business is at serving customers, occasions will arise when things go wrong. Sometimes it is minor things that makes a customer mad. At other times you will find it hard to believe how you failed the customer. Whatever the issue, the key is an attitude of continuous and never ending improvement that makes things better for your customers.

It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, there is little to be gained from showing somebody who is already unhappy that they are wrong. As tempting as it may be, don’t try and win the battle, only to lose the war. It is difficult and expensive to acquire new customers, so you should do everything possible to keep everyone that you already have.

1. The first step is to fully acknowledge any wrong doing by you or your firm.

2. Next tell the customer how you will set things right. I believe the key to effective recovery is to surprise the customer. If you can do something more than they expect, this goes a long way to putting the relationship back on track. It doesn’t have to be big, but it should be more than simply correcting the mistake. One busy consultant gives free copies of her book to clients at the slightest hint of problems. Another gives small gifts chosen especially for that person.

3. Fix the problem. This is a critical component. Not only must you fix the current problem, but you should take pains to see that it doesn’t happen again. To achieve this you may need to implement a new process. Ask your employees for advice, often they will provide you with straight forward practical answers.

4. The final step is to follow up with the customer to confirm that the problem was fixed to their satisfaction. If you leave out this step, you are in danger of thinking you have resolved the problem, but the customer is still feeling dissatisfied. Also, customers will appreciate the call from you or your staff. It shows them that you care.

By taking these simple steps, you will strengthen your relationship, create valuable goodwill and retain your most valuable assets… your customers.