It’s that time again. The most wonderful time of the year. With kids jingle belling (and cash registers too hopefully) and everyone telling you be of good cheer- just like the famous song. And within all of that – your customers are busy searching for the best deals, the greatest gadgets, and the hottest new trends. So, stock the shelves, rotate your inventory, spruce up your displays, and ready the staff for good services. I meant – great service experiences. You know, the kind of experiences that will have your customers posting positive online reviews, spreading their awesome experiences in your business word of mouth, and generally becoming your effective, but unpaid sales force. Right? Maybe. If you’re lucky.

The truth is, customers are far more likely to spread bad experiences than good ones, if we talk about our experiences at all. We expect good service. A recent study by the national association of retailers found that a whopping 91% of our customers who experience bad customer service just never shop us again. Ever. That’s harsh. And it really hurts your bottom line. 13% of those dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people about their negative experience. Nowadays, bad reviews can go viral and permeate social media creating a toxic future for any budding entrepreneur who mishandles the occasional mishap.

The good news is, we can fix it. To err is human, to forgive is divine. Start with an old fashion apology. Then, fix the problem, and clean up the mess.  But don’t hide your efforts; as vocal as the complaint was, that’s how vocal or visible the remedy should be, as well. Say I’m so sorry that happened to you (my valued customer), that’s not normal for us and we are embarrassed, further, this is what we will do to fix the problem…  The beauty is – this process generally works. And if you encounter that occasional bad apple who keeps squawking publicly, the court of public opinion will generally rule in your favor.  Now, this does not give you a license for negligence – but it does mean that we understand that things can go wrong.  In general, look for ways to praise your customers and reward them for doing business with you. Teach them to appreciate you by appreciating them. Be thankful for their patronage and spread the good cheer. May all your customer experiences by jolly and bright. Happy Holidays.

(Source: Ruby Riesinger, Business Consultant, UGA SBDC in DeKalb)