In this digital age, you have to be aware of and deal with unhappy customers online and offline.

How do you handle an unhappy customer?

If you’re responsible for the unhappiness — a mixed-up order or a late arrival — you naturally want to do whatever you can to fix the problem.

But what if the problem really wasn’t your fault? What if the customer’s child was just tired and cranky while the customer tried to get her bakery order in? What if a dog owner contacts you on social because she’s still worried her dog might be sick, even after your mobile vet visit?

If you aren’t responsive, that customer is likely gone for good. Around 59% of customers will take their business elsewhere after just one instance of poor customer service and if they leave a bad review, they take even more business with them.

Are you a little confused about how you could be giving poor service when you didn’t do anything wrong?

It’s because you also didn’t do anything right.

What Is Good Customer Service?

Customer service isn’t just what you do for the customer — it’s also about what you don’t do. An unhappy customer is actually a golden opportunity.

If you own a bakery, the smart move would have been to offer the tired child a free cookie to distract him or her while the mother put in her order. If you operate a mobile vet service, respond to her comments with an offer to swing by the customer’s house and check the dog out again. Don’t forget that you need to connect your digital marketing to your real-world actions for the best customer service.

“For free?” you say.

Yes, for free. By acting at just the right moment — when it will make your customer’s experience a little better or easier — you’re turning those products, efforts on social sites, and services into a type of currency. That currency purchases customer loyalty in an era where customers have a huge range of options.

Customer retention and loyalty is the name of the game when it comes to small business survival. Studies have shown that three out of five customers will ditch their usual place of business in favor of someplace with better service — even without an unhappy experience. Plus, nine out of 10 of those customers say they’ll cheerfully spend more money at a small business that they think provides excellent customer service.

So, take an active role in responsive digital marketing and respond to every online post. Respond to your customer’s frustrations and fears — even when you’ve already done what you need to do. Doing more is what will give you a win.

Why Is the Short-Term Loss Unimportant?

Keep in mind, when you react to an unhappy customer, online or off, you aren’t just making an impression on that customer. You’re also making impressions on every customer who’s watching you in the store and especially online.

Happy customers tell an average of nine people about their experiences. However, it turns out that unhappy customers are a lot more energetic than happy ones. One angry customer will usually tell around 16 people about their lousy experience, not counting the hundreds or thousands in the wider online audience.

See what I’m getting at? The smart choice may be to take the short-term hit to your bottom line right now in order to make long-term wins.

Why Is Doing What You Don’t Have to Do So Important?

Choosing to take that short-term hit in order to get a happy customer may be particularly smart business if you feel like the customer’s unhappy experience really wasn’t your fault.

Take, for example, an experience I had at a local restaurant. The menu said that the spaghetti had Italian sausage in it, but I didn’t know to expect the sausage to be spicy. Unable to eat it, I pushed the plate aside and focused on my friends instead of the food. I didn’t want to make a big deal about it.

The owner of the place, however, noticed on his rounds that I was not eating my meal. He asked me what was wrong, then immediately had me order something else. “On the house,” he said, “Please.” When the bill came, he’d actually comped both dishes.

Not only did he impress me, but he impressed my friends. He took total responsibility for my happiness. In doing so, he gained several long-term customers and organic word-of=mouth digital marketing from us for the price of two meals.

The Takeaway

Take total responsibility for your customer’s happiness — online and off — by being responsive even when you aren’t responsible for a problem. Service that goes “above and beyond” will build a loyal customer base.