What exactly do our customers remember about us and why?

Memorial Day has come and gone, and we are once again thankful for all the things our service men and women have done for us and our country. This makes me wonder about the relationships we have between our organizations and our customers.

Will our customers remember us when they again need or products or services? If they do remember us, what exactly will they remember and why?

Real World Story: A few weeks ago, I taught a customer service workshop where we discussed what to do if your customers are not happy. A brave young man from the audience said, “Oh, I just say, ‘Next!’” Naturally, I was curious about his comment, so I asked him what he meant. He replied, “Oh, well, we are really busy, so I don’t have time to ask how I can help them.” Inquisitively, I asked, “Do you mean that you let customers leave knowing they are not satisfied?” He said, “YES!”

I couldn’t believe it. When I spoke with his supervisor, later and in private, the supervisor said that if customers are unhappy, they will report it to the customer relations department. I have to vehemently disagree. Most upset customers will NOT report their dissatisfaction. Instead, they will simply walk right on over to your competitor.

AND if their experience was bad enough, they will remember it for a long, long time. And to help imprint the bad experience, they will tell as many of their friends, family, neighbors, and acquaintances – your other customers – as often as they can.

Research from an article titled Negative Memories May Be More Vivid Than Happy Ones reveals the following:

“Researchers say negative emotions like fear and sadness trigger increased activity in a part of the brain linked to memories (the orbitofrontal memory_braincortex and the amygdala). These emotionally charged memories are preserved in greater detail than happy or more neutral memories, but they may also be subject to distortion. For example, eyewitnesses to a shooting often report seeing the gun vividly, but they may not remember precise details of their surroundings…Researchers say this technique of preserving bad memories may have evolved as an evolutionary tactic to protect against future life-threatening or negative events.”

Another study reports:

  •  The average unhappy customer will remember an unpleasant incident for 23½ years
  •  The average happy customer will talk about the pleasant experience for years

Strategies that Turn it Around!

What you can do to ensure your customers always have a good experience:

  1. If you have the slightest sense that a customer is upset, ask her probing questions like “Did you get everything you were looking for today?” OR “I sense you’re upset. What can I do to help you?”
  2. If you can’t personally attend to a resolution on the spot, try a tactic like “I sense you’re not satisfied with something. Please give us a chance to resolve this. Would you like to speak to the manager?” Then immediately involve the manager so she or he can resolve the situation.
  3. As a proactive measure, designate one employee, per hour, to walk around canvassing customers to make sure customers are happy and satisfied.
  4. Be creative and come up with your very own solutions to your very particular circumstances. But don’t delay, be proactive and do it NOW!

Remember: Customers will remember a negative experience longer than a positive one. So, when you see an angry customer, do something about it NOW!

What does your company do to make sure customers leave with a positive experience?

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