Turning Negatives Into Positives

It used to be that when you did a great job, customers would tell an average of three people (or six or thousands depending on the person and the study). And it used to be that if they were unhappy, they’d tell seven people (or 27 or thousands).

But today, with social media, both happy and unhappy customers tell hundreds if not thousands about their experience.

I was clearly reminded of this while waiting in an airport security line near a woman on the cell phone talking angrily. From what I could gather from her side of the conversation, she rented a storage pod and had called three times to have it picked up.

This call to her was attempting to collect rent for another month. The caller didn’t have any record of her earlier two calls, so insisted that she owed another month’s rent.

She finished with a flurry of f-words and announced loudly that she would tell everyone she knows to never do business with them, and hung up.

I don’t know the other side of the story, but I can make some guesses. It could have been sloppy customer service not making note of the pickup request. It could have been that she was lying to avoid a month’s rent. It could be the company was trying to squeeze out one more month’s income. No matter what the real story, negative promotion isn’t worth a month of rent.

When a customer is upset, it’s a great opportunity to pivot the situation into a positive outcome.

In this story, it would have been simple for the caller to change the dynamic. Just say, “I’m sorry that we seemed to drop the ball. I’ll cancel this bill and send a truck to pick up the pod right away. If you’re willing, I’ll give you a discount code for a free month that you can pass on to friends who might need one of our storage pods. Would that be alright?”

This turns the negative experience into a positive one and sets up word-of-mouth referrals.

A couple more ideas:

Create a discount code based on the customer’s name. Personalization increases retention and makes it more likely that they’ll spread the word.

Ask, “What will you tell others about us?” This lets them rehearse what they’ll say, making it more likely that they will pass on the good news.

And when you do that, you’re CompetitionProof.