Winning Back Guests You’ve Lost


Winning back guests you have lost is not an issue people like to talk about, but it is a necessary topic in staff development.

What skills do your team members need in order to thwart a customer defection? It begins with being totally present in the encounter in order to realize the guest is unhappy enough to leave. It ends by saying and doing the right things to turn it around.

I have a great example of this happening in my personal life. Not long ago, my husband and I purchased a new refrigerator. We like to buy local whenever we can, and have been loyal customers for many years of a certain appliance store in our community. The new refrigerator has needed a repair man to come out four times for a series of issues, one right after the other.

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Eventually, it was determined that the left door was manufactured incorrectly, and a new one would need to be installed. Unfortunately, the company sent the wrong door, but that wasn’t determined until three hours of repair were completed. We ended up with a door that still didn’t dispense water or ice and even had aesthetic issues that included holes where a cover plate belonged. The part that bothered me most was that I was the one doing the calling every time to check on the status of the next step in the long, long saga. I had a refrigerator door that wasn’t right for over eight weeks, and I was still waiting.

Exasperated, I finally drove to the appliance store to get an answer. The owner told me, “Oh, we have the new door. I just don’t know where to put you in the schedule, so I haven’t called you back yet.”
Wrong answer.

If he would have just called me with regular updates, I would likely be fine with the progress. He even told me he sees my name on the list regularly and keeps telling himself they need to fit me in. This is the last purchase we made at that local shop, I’m sad to say.

I had been kind and patient every step of the way, in what was now edging into a four-month ordeal. He knew that I was not happy, but he did nothing to turn it around. If he told me that he had arranged for a new door and was doing the repairs at no charge to me, that would have been good service.

The reason I will be moving on, never to return, is because there wasn’t an attempt to win me back after things went wrong. I haven’t received an apology for any of this, and clearly an apology was owed.

After a bad customer service experience, my mom used to say, “I’ll do my voting with my feet.” Then she would stop doing business with that establishment and become a walking billboard of information about her experience.

Social media has changed the way our customers can voice their opinions about us good and bad. Learning more about this topic is critical. Consider checking out the work of author Jay Baer, who wrote a great book called Hug Your Haters.

What I love about this book is that it isn’t merely his opinion. The book is based on an extensive proprietary study of how, where, and why we complain. He presents case studies from businesses of all types and sizes, and more than 50 interviews.

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Whether you work for a mom and pop store or a global brand, you will have haters, but you can’t afford to ignore them. This book will teach you how to embrace complaints, put haters to work for you, and turn bad news into good.

Meet Laurie Guest

Meet Laurie Guest

An entrepreneur, keynote speaker and author, Laurie Guest, CSP is a “go-to-resource” for customer service excellence. For more than two decades, she has shared her practical point of view on customer service and staff development with audiences and companies across the country, blending real-life examples and proven action steps for improvement. Her latest book, The 10¢ Decision: How Small Change Pays of Big, presents her most sought-after and impactful strategies to find and retain the best staff and highest-quality customers while delivering exceptional guest experiences.

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