You thought you were doing great, and then you see it. A customer is unhappy with your service and they have told you they are thinking of canceling. What do you do? How do you handle a dissatisfied customer? Can anything be done to prevent them from churning?
Customer success and support professionals like you are faced with this situation every day. Even if you have an exceptional product, you will run into customers who for some reason didn’t have the experience you hoped, and now it’s your job to see if you can save them. It is no easy task, and the steps it takes to rebuild trust can vary.
But it’s possible. In fact, research suggests that 52% of people will purchase more from you based on a good experience, and nothing presents the opportunity to create a good experience like fixing a bad one. Everyone knows that bad experiences are inevitable, but if you do what it takes to fix it and make the customer happy again, you may just have a customer for life.
So what are professionals actually doing to win back trust of their customers? We asked 19 individuals what their teams are doing, and their answers are sure to give you some guidance on what you can do to turn detractors into promoters. If you like these quotes, download and share them out!
Joshua LaMarche, Head of Customer Support at Gong
“Trust is damaged when I fail to meet someone’s expectations, even if they are unspoken. The first step in rebuilding trust is to genuinely acknowledge and empathize with the other person’s feelings. Next, confirm I fully understand their expectations in writing, and reiterate my commitment to their success.
Next, I commit to and communicate a clear path forward with achievable milestones. Lastly, execute the plan with excellence, confirm final resolution and thank them for giving me the opportunity to make things right.”
Estela Turqui, Senior Manager Product Support at Mailchimp
“While every situation is different, the two main elements to rebuild trust with dissatisfied customers, and mostly anybody else, is seeking to understand and taking action.
Seeking to understand by using empathy to see things from your customers’ point of view.
And then take action in a timely manner and compassionate way, showing you really understood.”
Kelsey Peterson, Head of Customer Success at Crosschq
“Understanding where the customer is coming from is paramount to rebuilding trust. Hearing (truly actively listening to) the customer perspective provides the foundation necessary to determine opportunities for value and how best to move forward together.”
Joseph Huisman, Director of Customer Support at Swoogo
“First and foremost, be human. For some reason or another, the customer has lost faith and showing a genuine interest in what is causing their concerns will go a long way to establishing or rebuilding trust.
From there, ensure you have a clear understanding of their concern by effectively communicating, set realistic expectations, and follow up accordingly. It is critical at this point that you stick to the agreed-upon plan. Often it isn’t so much about addressing the actual issue but addressing the customer’s perception of the issue and doing so with genuine empathy.”
Dana Alvarenga, VP of Customer Experience at SlapFive
“No one likes dissatisfied or unhappy customers. Reversing that as quick as possible is the key to winning them back and securing the renewal no matter how far off it is.
First ensure that they are justified to be dissatisfied – I am a believer that the customer is not always right but most likely. Do your research and testing before contacting the customer.
Next you need to be upfront and honest with what happened and why. Then the final step would be to explain and even better show how that issue will not occur again. Going above and beyond is key. You do not need to offer crazy discounts or buy back the loyalty of your customer.
Do it with your actions.”
Ed Powers, Principal Consultant at Service Excellence Partners
“When things go wrong, it’s not how far you fall—it’s how high you bounce!
Use a systematic approach for service recovery: apologize, empathize, restore service quickly, communicate frequently, and follow up afterwards. Managers: document incidents, measure, analyze, and improve the process to prevent problems from happening again.
Done right, customers will regain their smiles and you’ll restore their trust!”
Hitesh Chadha, Customer Success Manager at Redhat
“The steps which I follow in the scenario are:
2. Acknowledge and Empathize
The same has to be repeated multiple times with a dissatisfied customer.”
Isabel Ruiz, Senior Customer Success Manager at Pluralsight
“A key part to relationship building is empathy. Listen to your customers. Find out not only about their current pain points, but also understand what’s happening in their organization.
- Is their role or department facing structural changes?
- How’s their industry reacting at the moment? If the product or service you are providing is not delivering the outcome(s) the customer envisioned, then it is better to go back to the start.
- What were their goals? What were they trying to achieve?”
Jared Orr, Mid-Market Customer Success Manager at iDeals
“I always research the client’s usage history and check the correspondence they have had with us in the CRM. I collaborate with Product, Support, or any other departments that could help with this client’s situation. This information helps me identify the issues at hand and allows me to come prepared with solutions and workarounds.
When I reach out to them, I introduce myself as their CSM and make it very clear that I am their main point of contact and will ensure all their questions and issues are addressed in a timely manner. After asking the client for further clarification on how we can improve their experience, I present the plan and timeline on how I will address their situation.
Through consistent collaboration with fellow colleagues and constant updates on progress to the client, I address their situation and fix the issues at hand.
I will also schedule an EBR/QBR so the client and I can have a dialogue about how they are performing, show the value of our product/service, and game plan for the future.”
Kevin Leonor, Customer Success Manager at Zoom
If you are routinely dealing with dissatisfied customers, your customer journey map will tell you what you need to hear. Either your journey map is not well-designed or your execution of the journey map is failing in key areas. Determine which phase the failure exists. Bring the customer back to the lead up to that phase, reset expectations, and mutually agree on terms of success.
Next, you will need to deliver on those terms through a series of quick wins and long-term growth. Lastly, work to improve the pitfall or disconnect in the affected journey phase through quality control and update all relative playbooks for scalable improvement.”
Sydney Strader, Head of Customer Success at Catalyst
“Step 1: Set up a time to discuss 1:1. Ask intentional questions to get to the root of the poor experience.
Step 2: Actively listen.
Step 3: Acknowledge empathy towards their experience and your commitment to take action
Step 4: Communicate what action you intend to take. Ask for their confirmation that this addresses the issue
Step 5: Express appreciation for them investing their time to give you feedback
Step 6: Take action!
Step 7: Follow up with them and communicate what action was taken”
Nils Vinje, Founder and CEO of Glide Consulting and 30 Day Leadership
“The first step towards rebuilding trust in my opinion is to make sure the customer feels heard. It can often be the case that we want to get to a solution as quickly as possible but if we move too fast, we run the risk of not fully understanding the problem. Take time to make sure that you really hear what the customer is saying/dissatisfied with so that they feel like their voice has been heard. Then, you can work together on a solution to move forward.”
Katya Alfaro, Senior Customer Success Manager at OutSystems
“Start with a blunt conversation and listen to your customer’s pain points and concerns. Next build a co-owned ‘get well plan’ and confirm their criteria for success. Identify the stakeholders, timelines, and mutual sequence of events to get back on track. See this as an opportunity to strengthen the relationship with your customer and proactively communicate along the way. If they’re willing to speak with you, they’re willing to work with you.”
Kristen Hayer, Founder and CEO of The Success League
“Listen – Ask them about what happened and really listen to their answers. Dig in deeper with exploratory questions. Be curious and learn as much as you can about the situation and its impact on your customer. It can be scary to really dig into an issue with a customer – you might be worried that you’ll hear something you don’t want to. But, listening lets the customer know that you care, and helps you get past the assumptions you’re probably making about your customer’s situation. You’ll probably learn something new that will help you creatively solve their problem.”
Irit Eizips, Chief Customer Officer and CEO at CSM Practice
“The best way to rebuild trust with a customer is to become aware of why the customer is dissatisfied and be sympathetic to their frustration. Analyze the point of the frustration and work with the customer on possible solutions to the issue. Once you have a solution, make that customer top priority and deliver your solution as soon as possible. A quick phone call or email can go a long way in bringing that customer back.”
Emily Garza, AVP, Customer Success at Fastly
“Building customer trust takes time and effort; Regaining that customer trust requires even more time and effort. If you’ve lost customer trust and are trying to regain it, follow these steps:
1. Understand what caused the break in trust. Don’t make assumptions – hear directly from the customer on what went wrong and how they feel things can be made right.
2. Acknowledge and set expectations. Even if it wasn’t directly your fault, acknowledge the challenges the customer faced, apologize if appropriate, and discuss how you can work together moving forward.
3. Make a plan and execute. Given what you’ve heard, develop action items and timing about how you can address the issues. Communicate timing and status with the customer, so they can see progress.
4. Use other actions to re-prove yourself. If the customer is willing to give you other projects or opportunities, execute these efficiently.
5. Create ongoing open lines of communication. Ensure you provide visibility to status and ask for feedback often.”
Brian Hartely, Senior Director, Customer Success at RFP360
“The key to rebuilding trust is:
1) accepting responsibility for what led to the dissatisfaction in the first place
2) leading with transparency in every interaction.
Often times this has led me to difficult conversations which could have easily been ignored. At the end of the day, I have repaired a lot of relationships using these two philosophies!”
Josh Rosenthal, Director of SaaS Success at Aqua Security, who purchased CloudSploit — the open-source cloud security startup that he co-founded and grew via Customer Success
“Ask questions to have them feel heard, thank them for their commitment to the relationship, and then collaboratively construct a path towards resolution.
Start by tracking each of their concerns. For each one, discuss your proposed resolution so they may add details and priorities.
Unless the next step is obvious, share a quick win by implementing the easiest agreed-upon action item. Follow up with the progress of each action item so that they can feel valued by you.”
How Does Zight (formerly CloudApp) Help Rebuild Trust?
People trust people, and if a customer feels like they have a company representative in their corner, their much more likely to have a good experience. In fact, research shows that when someone sees an unfamiliar but friendly face, initial cooperation increases by 20%!
Zight (formerly CloudApp) helps customer support and success reps personalize their outreach using video recordings, webcams, and screenshots. Whether you’re trying to resolve a quick customer issue, show overall progress and strategy on the account, or train your customers on your product, a personalized video, showing your face with your webcam, is the best way to do this. Added bonus is they can interact with that content whenever they want! No need to coordinate a meeting.