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Earning Customer Trust and Loyalty

Companies that have mastered the ability to deliver a consistent, branded customer experience are leveraging a powerful marketing tactic—one that is able to build a loyal customer base and reap rewards for years to come. Customers are more likely to believe what they experience and feel rather than what they read in a marketing message or advertisement.

When loyal customers feel an emotional bond with a company, their positive comments and word-of-mouth referrals are significantly more persuasive than any marketing or advertising campaign. Every successful customer experience program establishes opportunities for a company to forge deep and personal connections with its customers.

Savvy business leaders place an enormous emphasis on the importance of delivering a flawless experience. Unfortunately, even the most successful companies experience failures. When problems happen, a customer’s sensitivity to price doubles, loyalty is at risk, and the potential to damage years of good will could be at stake. Problems place the relationship in crisis and create a pivotal time for a company to re-establish the relationship and repair the damage. If not handled properly, the trusted relationship may be shattered.

The response a customer receives when a problem occurs sends a message about a company’s culture and its morals. It provides an indicator of how much a company values and appreciates a customer’s business, how respectful it is of their time, and whether it recognizes the effort needed to manage a problem resolution process.

Most companies train employees to apologize when problems take place, but often forget the most important ingredient needed for a successful resolution—empathy. Scientific research in conflict resolution shows that even if an apology such as “I’m sorry” was offered, without recognizing the emotions at play or a statement acknowledging the gravity of the situation, the apology will not have a positive impact.

The most effective apologies adhere to the following principle: Offer empathy that recognizes the true severity of the problem. An empathetic statement should recognize the emotions the customer is feeling. For example: “I am so sorry for what has happened to you. I can only imagine how frustrated and angry you must be.” Recognizing and acknowledging how customers are feeling will significantly help defuse the situation and let them know and feel they have been heard.

When problems crop up in business, a sincere apology becomes the foundation for restoring the severed trust that threatened the business relationship. It also makes a strong statement about company values. Organizations must focus their attention on preventing unpleasant surprises from happening to customers and implementing an effective, empathetic problem resolution approach to solidify customer trust and loyalty.

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