Common sense isn't that common, which is why simple things like asking an angry customer what he or she wouldlike you to do can seem like such a remarkable tactic.

"First let the customer sound off," says John Wirth, president of Woodworker's Supply, a mail-order company, inAlbuquerque. After the venting, ask how the situation can best be resolved. "Ninety percent of the time the customer comesback with something reasonable--often less than you would volunteer to do yourself," says Wirth. And Wirth doesn't leavethese opportunities to chance: employees are trained to handle complaints in sessions with simulated calls.

The payoffs are huge. "A customer with a satisfactorily resolved problem will produce three times the revenue of a customerwithout a problem," contends Wirth. "Down the road, when you and six other competitors reach his mailbox, your mailing willstand out. The customer develops an affinity for you that he doesn't have for the others." And, he adds, the customer willprobably recommend you to friends.

Copyright © 1995 G+J USA Publishing