Customer loyalty is important for a successful business. And when you move mountains to make customers happy, you expect them to reward you with ongoing business, right? But what happens when a loyal customer isn’t so loyal? When they give their business to a competitor it can feel like a betrayal. What can you do to stop yourself from churning with resentment while taking steps to regain your customer’s business?
When you believe you’ve been wronged, insulted, or hurt by a customer, it’s easy to hold a grudge. That leaves you filled with negativity. To break free, start by acknowledging your unmet expectations. After all, customer loyalty is something you have to work for.
Resentment happens when you have an expectation of what customer loyalty means and your customer doesn’t meet that expectation. Instead of being crushed when they go elsewhere, realize you simply had an expectation that wasn’t met. It will help you to take a strategic approach to recovering the customer, or at least understanding possible reasons for their choices. (Those issues probably affect other customers, too.)
GET RID OF “NEVER, “ALWAYS,” AND “SHOULD”
When you think, “A loyal customer would never go to my competition without giving me a chance to bid”, it leaves you feeling betrayed. Never and always are absolutes that are rarely realistic. When your expectations don’t match reality, try doing your emotional homework. Fighting reality with “they shouldn’t have…” or “they should have…” doesn’t work. It’s like running on a hamster wheel. You get nowhere. You had an expectation and it wasn’t met. Now what? It’s much more useful to wonder what might make a loyal customer choose your competitor. But until you manage your emotions, that will be difficult.
What’s important to remember is that holding a grudge will not earn back business and it won’t make you more effective on the job. In fact, it’s likely to cause you to lose more business. No one likes working with a resentful person.
When you feel resentful, ask yourself:
- Is this resentment serving me?
- Am I more committed to the resentment or the customer relationship?
- Can I be honest with myself about what’s causing this resentment to stick around?
While all three questions are powerful, the last one is the most important. What prevents you from letting go of resentment is often an unwillingness to take responsible action. It can feel powerful to sit in resentment. You get to be right, justified and indignant (without having to take any action or risk) but it will cost you your peace of mind and that customer’s business. To take responsible action means doing the following:
- Discovering a perspective you might not have previously considered
- Wondering how the customer may have come to their decision
- Opening up a conversation with the intention of listening so you can learn and possibly restore customer loyalty
Sometimes customers choose to give work to competing firms because of a significantly lower price, a charismatic salesperson’s pitch or pressure from their boss to spread the work around. Rather than resenting your client, look at it as an opportunity for them to see your value over your competitor’s. Sometimes a customer can’t fully appreciate what you do, until they work with someone who doesn’t go the extra mile the way you do.
When that wayward customer comes back to you, be welcoming and appreciative for their return. Any bitterness you hold will poison the relationship. Your understanding will help ease any discomfort that customer may have about coming back, cementing an even better relationship and creating even more customer loyalty.
What about you? Have you ever lost a customer to a competitor only to have them return even more committed to working with you than ever before? Tell us about it.
Marilyn Suttle is a customer experience expert, professional conference speaker, and coauthor of the bestselling book, Who’s Your Gladys? How to Turn Even the Most Difficult Customer into Your Biggest Fan. Marilyn delivers customer service and communication skills success strategy keynotes and workshops, to help her audiences create strong, productive relationships in every area of life. For more information email: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.whosyourgladys.com.
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