Running an Efficient Customer Service/Unhappy customer

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Question
I have a question regarding an unhappy client. I own a dog walking and pet sitting business and have been in business for more than three years. I have a good amount of clients and most are very faithful. I actually just got done talking to a woman that was unhappy with my last stay. Apparently the dogs hard marked up their rug while I was running back and forth from her house. I hadn't realized it. She requested I return her key today and she approached me asking if I had actually been here the times I was asked to be; which I was. She let me know that they had to replace the rug. She didn't say anything other than she didn't feel comfortable using my services any longer. I apologized to her that she had that poor of an experience with me, I've had her as a client for over a year and have never had this problem. She didn't ask for a refund. Should I offer her a refund for my services because she was so unhappy with them? It breaks my heart when I lose a client, especially in this way. I have a pretty good track record of happy customers. Even though she will no longer use me should I send her a refund in the mail?

Answer
I hate losing a client because they're unhappy. But never make it about money. The client wasn't unhappy with your prices.

If you've had faithful clients for years, and this client lets you go without discussion after a year of good service and raises trust issues (asking if you were really there like you said) then I'd say this isn't about you and your service, and was probably going to happen eventually no matter what you did.

So much goes on in people's lives that we never see. Perhaps the client hired you against the wishes of her husband (I'm being totally theoretical here since I have no idea the person's situation.) One day the husband finally finds an excuse to rail at her about the dog care, because clearly it's not perfect. She takes her domestic discord out on you. If that perfectly possible scenario happened, nothing in the world you did could have prevented it.

According to customer loyalty expert Fred Reichheld, our very best clients will be, not those who've never had a problem, but those who've had a problem with our services which we've successfully resolved. It's not about being perfect, it's about how we handle our own mistakes.

When someone doesn't give you an opportunity to fix a mistake, but just takes their keys and walks away, you can't convert them to a prime client. All you can do is let them go.

Focus on the happy clients. Find more just like them. In fact, tell your best clients how much you like them, and ask if they have friends who could use your service. If you want to bring money into the situation, ask your best client if they have a friend who could use a free month of your services (or whatever time period makes sense.) Make it a gift from the client. They feel great, you meet a new potential client, and the new potential client gets your excellent services at no risk.

Running an Efficient Customer Service

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Joel D Canfield

Expertise

I'm a problem-solver; I specialize in finding practical win-win solutions to difficult customer service issues. Anything to do with maintaining good relations with your customers and still running a profitable business is fair game.

Experience

I've operated more than one successful small business of my own, and provided support for multiple small businesses as a consultant.

Education/Credentials
I am self-taught. I've been a voracious reader since I was 4 years old. I absorb three to five new books a month on virtually every subject of interest to a small business owner/operator.

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