When Runs Go Bad and Clients Go Mad

Posted on June 1, 2003 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

It has happened to the best of us: a driver calls while out on the road with a client to say that the car has a flat tire. You call for back-up and send the client on his way as soon as possible. That’s the end of the problem, right? Not quite.

What you decide to do immediately afterwards is equally important. If a client feels mistreated by your company, for whatever reason, you should do everything possible to turn that client’s negative experience into a positive one.

“And it’s not necessarily about who’s right and who’s wrong; blame game is not the key. The key is to make the customer happy,” says Chris Hundley of The Limousine Connection in Los Angeles.

It’s worse to lose a client than it is to admit fault, adds Susan Bonomolo of New Orleans-based Bonomolo Limousine.

‘What Should I Do When a Client is Angry?’
“Deal with it, and deal with it quick,” Sturdivant suggests. The operators LCT questioned said they have no magic formula for how to handle disgruntled clients, but that you have to look at it from a case-to-case, client-to-client base.

“The key is immediate damage control; not having an incident happen and then letting it lie for two days before you follow up with the customer,” Hundley offers. He adds that instant damage control means that “the customer knows that even if you haven’t reached a resolution, you’re aware of [the problem] and you’re going to do something about it.”

Should I Follow-Up and Risk Dwelling on a Negative?
You don’t want to keep bringing up a negative subject with your clients, but some additional follow-up might be called for when runs go bad. If you offer disgruntled clients a free future run to iron out the bumps in your relationship, they will probably feel most comfortable having such promises in writing, since it gives them a guarantee you will hold your word. Should you be away from your operation when a client wants to take advantage of a free run, he or she needs to have a certificate stating he/she has a credit with the company, Sturdivant explains.

He also says he would make an extra phone call to a mistreated client and send out a letter of apology along with the certificate. Yet, stay leery of bringing up the incident at numerous occasions after the issue is resolved, since that only will lead you to what Hundley calls “dwelling on a negative.”

“We do [an] initial follow up and we come to a resolution and leave it at that; it’s resolved and it’s over,” Hundley says. “I don’t want to have [the client] call in after his third trip, and I say, ‘is everything still OK? I know we had that problem.’”

Should I Reimburse or Offer Free Future Service?
Regardless of method, remember that your No. 1 goal is to please the client and retain him or her as a customer.

Even if most clients might be content with a future run for free as a bandage for the one that went sour, some clients might not be pleased until they receive their money back, if ever.

Still, be cautious about automatically offering to compensate a service, since ideally that is not your best option.

“My first approach would be to try and credit something towards the future so you keep [the clients] in line with you,” Hundley says. Sturdivant adds: “If you offer the money back, you’ve lost the client; they’ve got their money, and they’re gone.”

Sturdivant suggests offering a client double the time of the trip that went bad, or if it was an airport run offering two or even three such runs for free.

Bonomolo suggests asking clients what it will take for them to again entrust your company with their business. “I’d ask them what they think would be fair, depending on how long the trip was and what was involved,” she says. “Usually, I’ll end up offering them another evening for free, but sometimes I’ll have to comp it no matter what.”

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