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happy listening?“It’s impossible to keep every customer happy” so said the guy at the car rental office.

That got me thinking… you can’t hope for a happy customer every time, or can you? What do you think?

On a recent family holiday to Crete we hired a car and headed off to find the palm tree beach at the end of the island. It was further than we expected. After a couple of hours driving the car broke down.

The rental company came to the rescue but instead of spending 3 hours on an exotic palm fringed beach, we spent 3 hours by the side of a hot and dusty greek road.

What struck me most about them… were the stern faces and unwillingness to speak.

Now these things happen and although it spoiled our plans we remained in good holiday spirits.

Nevertheless I decided to mention the breakdown to the rental company when we came to return the car, hoping that they might refund us a few euro’s which I would have been happy with.

The response of the two employees manning the rental station was ‘Your bad luck’. What struck me most about them though were the stern faces and unwillingness to speak to me.

I know when faced with criticism we can all become defensive and not speaking, ignoring and not facing up to the problem is often a natural instinct.  

They did not seem to be enjoying their job at all. Now I know that dealing with car rentals might not be the most fulfilling job but surely satisfaction can come by doing everything to ensure that their customers are happy. 

I tried to make my point that the value of the service we received was not the value we had paid for. “Unlucky – it happens, sometimes customers are not happy there is nothing we can do about it. It’s impossible to keep every customer happy” was the response.

I probably would have left it there, but something was niggling me, not so much that I wasn’t getting any euro’s but more with the stern faced attitude and particularly their statement that it’s impossible to keep every customer happy so I started a new conversation.

I instantly felt the atmosphere change

“It is possible” I said “when I walked in here I was pleased with the efforts made to rescue us when the car broke down 2 hours drive away from the rental office, this company cares I thought. But then you were very stern and abrupt with me, there may be little you can do practically but you could have made me feel listened to. Now I’m feeling like this company doesn’t care after all.”

I instantly felt the atmosphere change, something I had said must have struck a chord.

The office manager now sat across the desk from me. “We do thousands of rentals, sometimes some breakdown, there really is nothing we can do, you were unlucky. It’s impossible to always have a happy customer. I’m sure they are not always happy in the business you are in” he said.

I felt that at least now we seemed to have some rapport and the stern expression had disappeared from his face. I talked a little about marketing and websites and then I said it “My customers are always happy”. 

“It’s not possible” was the retort.

I’m liable to jump up and punch the air – oh yes! 

“Well I haven’t had an unhappy customer or client yet” – Upon reflection this was a pretty bold statement that I could not be 100% sure about, perhaps what I really meant was I am happy that I have done everything I could to give my customer that happy feeling that they have had the value that they have paid and in most cases more.

Whether that is true for every single client I honestly don’t know, but what I do know is that I have certainly received many good positive comments from clients. For me one of the most enjoyable aspects about work is the feeling I get when I have been able to really help someone and they are pleased and value my efforts. When someone tells me so, depending where I am and who I’m with I’m liable to jump up and punch the air – oh yes! 

…a way forward…

We talked a little more about value for money service and were now on first name terms. It did become clear that there was little Vassilli or his colleague could do other than give me money out of his own wallet. Somehow, a refund seemed unimportant now.  

“The only thing I can suggest” said Vassilli “Is to write to our administration team who handle the bookings.” 

“Thankyou, ok you were not able to do exactly what I wanted, but now I feel a lot happier than when I first walked in. You have talked to me and  listened and at least offered a way forward for me”.

Thinking about my own client relationships; If there is something I cannot do for a client or within their budget I will always talk to them and find a way forward that they will be happy with what can be done.”

We parted with a shake of the hand and a smile.

And no, I haven’t bothered to waste time writing to ask for a few euros.

…not only will I have a happy customer but a potential advocate for my services

What I learned from this episode is that things may not go perfectly 100% of the time, and when things don’t go quite right, trying to brush it under the carpet or avoid talking about it has an adverse effect.

I don’t think clients expect me to be 100% perfect. But what they do expect is 100% effort to turn the situation around if required so that they are happy with the eventual outcome. Do that and not only will I have a happy customer but a potential advocate for my services where reputation is crucial.

Trust is a vital part of a business relationship. I would much rather work with someone who is open and honest, (genuinely) than someone who makes fine sounding claims. How many times have you bought something on the basis of a review that said something like “there was a problem but was quickly sorted”?

When someone comes to your website, once they have determined you have what they need, the next indicator they are looking for is trust. Trust that this person or business is going to fulfil that need with no unpleasant surprises, if something goes wrong it will get sorted.

A professional looking site filled with genuine testimonials or reviews, accreditations and open honest language is a great way to convey your trustworthyness.

So what can you expect if you ask me to work with you?

Pete StevensI promise that I’ll do whatever I can to ensure you are a happy customer, whether it be with your brand new website, or your now search optimised or conversion optimised website. And if for some reason something does not quite work out as planned then I promise it wont be swept under the carpet and I will do whatever I can to find a way forward and make it better. 

Want to comment below or tell us how you ensure you have happy customers?

photo by: JD Hancock
About the author: Pete Stevens: I work with businesses to get the best out of their website; maximise visitors and maximise sales. I live with my wife and 2 teenage children near Bradford & Leeds in Yorkshire UK. I enjoy golf, football and curry mmm!

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