Customer Service Fail

This happened recently: My parents, who had been with the same insurance company for decades, received a form letter in the mail informing them that coverage on one of their rental properties was being dropped.
    The reason was too many claims (three) had been filed in a certain time period (about seven years). Never mind the fact that every one of these claims was the result of something outside of their control (storm damage courtesy of Mother Nature); or the fact they’d had many other policies with this same company for decades. The bottom line, the letter informed them – albeit not verbatim – was that on this particular property, more had been paid out in claims than had been taken in via premiums so coverage was being dropped. Certainly you understand that X insurer is a business, and this is a business decision, it stated.
    This letter definitely upset and frustrated my parents, but the real issue began when they tried to get a hold of their insurance agent. Voice mails weren’t returned promptly, and when they did finally speak with her, she didn’t, in their perception, respond promptly or aggressively to their questions. In short, they felt blown off by her response, which angered them even more. Ultimately they ended up deciding to take every single one of their policies elsewhere, severing a long-standing business relationship.
    I know this because I heard about little else for weeks. This situation frustrated my dad in particular so much that whenever the family got together he’d usually suggest that me and my adult siblings also consider taking our insurance business elsewhere (a possibility I am currently investigating, by the way).
    As such, my parents’ situation has left me reflecting on how one negative experience with a company can have long-lasting, powerful ripple effects. It wasn’t even so much that something had gone wrong –  my dad told me on numerous occasions that he didn’t blame the insurance agent for a decision clearly made by those above her – but it was how it was handled in the aftermath that really set them off. The form letter, the lack of prompt follow-up, the perceived blow-off responses all contributed to a negative perception that made an already bad situation worse.
    It also resulted in them giving this company a lot of negative word-of-mouth publicity that could’ve otherwise been avoided. In addition to telling other people about this situation, my dad even wrote a social-media review, something he almost never does.
    Look, most reasonable customers understand that businesses aren’t perfect. Issues occur occasionally, from large to small, but it’s how these problems are handled that can really make or break your salon. Some of the very best customer relationships are cemented when a concern or issue is handled properly by a business that shows it cares. To the contrary, the absolute worst thing you can do when a customer is angry is to blow him or her off.
    How do you show that you care? At minimum, you must acknowledge your customer’s concern, and give them the courtesy of a prompt, sincere response. If you don’t know the answer to something then tell them you will investigate the situation promptly, and immediately follow through. This alone goes a long way toward achieving an amicable outcome. When people are upset, they want to feel like they are being heard. Beyond that, a sincere, heartfelt apology and going out of your way to remedy the situation if possible is also a great idea.
    To that end, I’d love to hear your stories about the time something went wrong and you were able to fix it for the bride. Please e-mail or tweet me. I’d be willing to bet the end result in most cases was a happy customer who ended up singing your bridal salon’s praises.

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