The No. 1 Way to Lose Business

Word of mouth is essential to entrepreneurial success. About 74% of consumers depend of word of mouth for their top purchasing decisions.

Another 68% depend on online opinions, according to Nielsen. Another 88% of people trust online reviews of other consumers.

Good word of mouth is essential. However, once you begin to take your customers for granted, alienate, perhaps even lose that person, you’ve increased the likelihood of negative word of mouth. Not only can that cost you money, but also the very business.

As we all know, bad word of mouth is bad PR, especially if you’ve made a mess.

If you make a mistake, own it. Look into it. Fix it. Don’t repeat it. And if you’re unsure of who’s at fault, don’t rush to blame your client.

If not, you will have a word of mouth PR problem the size of Jupiter.

Look at the United Airlines story for example.

CEO Oscar Munoz had just won the PR Week Communicator of the Year for 2017 reward for helping to “curtail customer service problems caused by disgruntled staff that had long plagued the airline.”

Then, as we all know a video went viral of a passenger being dragged, screaming from a flight by officers. Without question, following that issue, the CEO should have shifted into crisis mode, issuing a sincere apology, putting together a plan for addressing the issue.  That’s because clear communication in a situation such as that is a necessity.

Instead, the CEO reportedly said that such action was necessary because the customer had become “disruptive and belligerent.”

“Our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this,” Munoz noted in his response to employees. “While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly safe”

Days later, his PR team apparently got to him, leading him to now say, “I continue to be disturbed by what happened on this flight, and I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard. No one should ever be mistreated this way."

He’s right. No one should be treated that way. Unfortunately, by not saying that initially, he increased his likelihood of very negative word of mouth. As a result, not only did the CEO lose this customer, but it's also possible he lost even more customers because of the video and his response.

Now, the only way for the CEO to fix this issue is with a very thoughtful communications plan that lets customers know they come first. We all know respect won’t return overnight, though. Negative word of mouth won’t just disappear either.  That’s because the incident was treated so poorly.

In my own experience as a CEO, the customer has always been respected and will always be treated kindly and well. In fact, I let my clients know they matter with some simple steps.

No. 1 – Make them feel like guests.

Don’t refer to your customers as customers or even as clients. They’re your guests. You are the host. And as the host, you make them feel at home. Or they’ll walk out the door like a bitter ex and take the money with them in the process.

Above all else, try to remember their name. Even as a small gesture, it shows you care.

You don't to come across as saying, “Hey what’s your face?”

No. 2 – Respect goes a long way.

Respect is tough to get back once you’ve lost it. It costs you nothing to be respectful in return, even if a situation becomes heated. Without it, you’ll pay dearly.

No. 3 – Immediately Act. Don’t Blame.

United’s CEO is learning this the hard way.

Things will go awry at certain points. However, apologies mean absolutely nothing if they are not followed by quick action. It doesn’t matter if you say you’re sorry well. What matters is how you acted in response. Actually deliver with actual results.

No. 4 – Ask for feedback.

I’ve never met a customer not ready to give me comments on anything. I actually love it because it can help improve what I may already be doing. All you have to do is ask them. Give them a sample of your product. Ask them to try it out and get back to you. They may actually keep you from sinking money into a bad decision or product.

In fact, what’d you think of this latest blog post?