One big secret to success hides in plain sight - yet we frequently overlook it. It's the reason for Amazon's success and Apple's amazing brand: customer happiness.

Making customer service a central part of your company's mission is an underrated key to success. By doing so, customers feel delighted and act as brand advocates - increasing sales and brand value.

When customers are angry, they have the power to destroy your brand. I've seen this first-hand as a founder of SkyBell. The first version of our product was far from perfect. Early adopters were angry, and our brand took a hit. We turned it around by focusing on the customer - and we've grown rapidly ever since.

Customer service is a secret weapon

If you're not convinced that customer service has a huge impact on your success, consider these facts.

According to a study done by American Express in 2014, 60% of people said they always share a bad customer experience with others. And, they tell three times as many people than they do when they've had a good experience.

At SkyBell, we found that it took about 25 happy customers to offset one bad review.

A Bain & Company study claims, "It costs 5 to 25 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one."

Customer service can be more profitable than even your marketing efforts. That's because you avoid the damage of unhappy customers and you benefit from happy customers' advocacy and return business.

Here's how you can turn even the angriest customers around - no matter what business you're in.

Make it easy on them

Don't frustrate your customers: Put your phone number and email in plain sight on your website, user guide and your app. Also, make sure your phone number is clickable on mobile.

Nail the first 30 seconds

First impressions are important. Your fate is virtually sealed in the first 30 seconds of your interaction. Communicate empathy and establish mutual purpose.

Consider what I say right off the bat:

"Thank you for reaching out. I'm very sorry that you're frustrated."

"The last thing I want is for you to be upset. What I do want is for you to be a happy customer - and I'm here to help you in every way I can."

My first goal is to deliver a direct and sincere apology, and empathize with the customer. Then I clearly state my intention to help them find a positive resolution - which is what they want. Together, this diffuses the customer's combativeness and opens them up to collaborating on a solution.

Let them vent

Angry customers want to be heard and likely won't let go of their anger until you listen. No one likes to hear complaining, but you can't skip this step. 

Allow them to air their grievances by saying, "Please tell me more about the problem." Ask follow-up questions. Apologize and state your good intentions. Above all else, don't interrupt. When they're finished, say, "Thank you."

Provide solutions as options

While helping customers at SkyBell, I found that they liked hearing all their options - including a refund. It sounds taboo, but after I told a customer they could get their money back, they were more willing to troubleshoot their issue first. In almost every case, the fix worked and we saved a sale.

Get them involved

Another effective tactic is to invite an unhappy customer into your beta program. In our case, these customers received insider access to our product, helped us find bugs and became our biggest fans.

Use your judgment on this. Some people do not want to help you when they're upset. But many folks, especially first adopters, will appreciate the opportunity.

Ask for the review

After a week or so, check back in with the customer and ask if they're still happy. If they're happy, affirm how important they are as a customer. Then ask if they're willing to give you a review or testimonial. Be sure to say it's OK if they don't. This reduces the pressure and makes it OK for them to do it later when they're ready.

 

Your dedication to the customer will pay off. Using these tips can turn an unhappy customer into a 5-star review. Just like Amazon, your brand will become synonymous with excellent customer service and your customers will sing your praises - instead of your competitors'.

Published on: Jul 7, 2016