Over the last three decades, I have developed a simple plan to turn every upset customer into a customer for life. Remember in the connected economy releasing an upset customer into the wild is a really bad idea. Statistics show that upset customers are far more likely to share their bad experience on social and digital networks than happy customers. We also know the impact of negative reviews can be catastrophic as going from a five-star to a four-star yelp rating for many businesses can directly result in 10% to 20% reductions in sales. So here’s my easy-to-follow plan for turning an upset customer into a happy and profitable customer.

Step one – Proclamation

Most organizations engage with upset customers by citing policies and procedures. This of course, is the kiss of death. It’s okay to have procedures and policies but if you start there you will fail. My recommendation is very simple proclaimed to the customer that you intend to listen to them and work hard to make them happy. Ms. Johnson I can understand why you’re so upset about your room reservation. Our notes show that you did in fact request a poolside room and I just want to let you know that I intend to make this right.

Step two – Listen

One of the hardest things to do sometimes is to simply, shut up. Our natural instinct is to talk our way through the problem. Our study shows that upset customers need to relieve some steam simply stated they want to talk about why they’re upset. So if they want to talk we need to listen. Also, if we listen carefully we can begin to get a hint as to what we can actually do for the customer to make them happy.

Step three – Confirmation

It’s important that you understand why the customer is really upset, so at this point you need to confirm what you just heard the customer say. Miss Johnson I just want to confirm that your preference is a poolside room, you requested a poolside room and you would like us to offer some compensation for our mistake. Is that correct?

Step four – The Fix

The customer has just told you exactly why they’re upset, you have been confirmed why they’re upset and now it’s your turn to offer up a solution based on what you learned from carefully listening to the customer. The first thing you need to do is acknowledge that your reservation department made a mistake with an apology for the inconvenience. However, the customer still expects you to show your commitment to solving the problem. At this point you might offer up the following. Miss Johnson I have directed our front desk staff to put you on a priority list should a poolside room come available. In the meantime can I pay for your buffet breakfast during your stay here as a way of offering our sincerest apologies for the inconvenience? During the listening phase you will more than likely get hints as to what you should offer to make this particular customer happy. Unfortunately most organizations give team members limited authority to do the right thing and that from a business profitability and customer retention perspective is a colossal mistake.

Step five – Follow-up

You may have assumed that you fix the problem by offering up something to the customer in step four. Unfortunately, however your customer needs you to button up the situation with an unexpected follow-up one to two weeks after any incident. This gives you the opportunity to do a quality assurance check to make sure what you offered up did in fact leave the customer happy. From the customer’s perspective this demonstrates to them that making the situation right was truly a priority with you and your organization.

This linear process takes in consideration the psychodynamics of defusing anger and takes both parties to a safe and happy landing. What would happen in your personal relationships if you handle conflict in this matter? I’ve been happily married for over a quarter century and I must admit in the rare occasions that my wife and I have a conflict I deploy this process with a 100% success rate. In a conflict the first thing I say is Michelle before we go any further I just want to let you know that I love you and I honor and respect our relationship and I’m committed to do anything to make this right. Then I shut up and listen. Usually I find out but I actually did something that was inadvertently disrespectful and because I’m willing to listen I always learn from these discussions. Then I confirmed to my wife what I thought I learned from the discussion to make sure that I’m taking away from the conversation the real lessons of the conflict. Then I do whatever it takes to first and foremost let her know that it has never been my intention to do anything disrespectful and I am 100% committed to being more conscious about my behaviors or comments. Most importantly I do this with 100% absolute sincerity I love my wife and I want her to be happy. Great organizations love their customers and he sincerely want them to be happy. I believe if you apply this proven formula to your customer conflicts you will see amazing results.