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I recently called my cell phone provider to ask some questions about my contract. The customer service rep told me that my contract had expired and that I could change carriers without any penalties. When he asked why I was considering changing, I said I could save 40% off my monthly bill elsewhere. After putting me on hold for about 5 minutes, he came back and offered to change my plan with limited options, which would only save me about 10% of my bill. I told him I would think about it and call back.

I never called them back, but you know what – they never did anything to try to keep my business. All I received was a customer service survey that came in a series of text messages.

As a marketer and a technologist, I can quickly become disappointed when brands (especially those that I purchase from) are not communicating effectively.  If my (now former) cell phone provider was actively using their CRM, handling a contract renewal could have been as simple as checking a box. A box that would have set off alarms and trigger subsequent events to attempt to make sure I didn’t take my business elsewhere.

Every company needs to have an “unhappy customer” escalation plan. For and marketing automation users, this can be a simple and mostly automated process:


Step 1: Communication is Logged:
Task is created in stating why the customer has complained.

Step 2: Send Personalized Email to Customer
Send an email acknowledging the customer’s inquiry and let them know you will speak to a supervisor to try to resolve the issue within 24 hours.

Step 3: Supervisor Calls Customer
Supervisor (or equivalent) calls customer and offers incentive to get customer to renew contract.

Step 4: Develop Relationship OR Cut Your Losses
A) If your customer remains a paying customer but is still unhappy, add them to a segmented marketing campaign. This will be another set of timely communications (emails, offers, and phone calls) that will help win their trust back with their brand.

B) If the customer decides to cancel their contract, cut your losses. However, be sure to remarket to your former customer at a later date and attempt to win their business back.

Advice: Don’t Be a Robot
I realize the above flowchart is overly simplified and may not apply to every industry. But, the key lesson is to not let your unhappy customers go untouched. Unhappy customers will take their business elsewhere, especially if there are not any repercussions for leaving.

If you’re using a marketing automation platform like Pardot or Marketo, customers can easily be added to engagement programs to receive a series of relevant and timely emails. Alerts can be automated to notify a sales rep that it’s time to follow up. But, don’t automate your entire process so that your company becomes robotic. A personal touch goes a long way in today’s technology-dependent world.

How do you deal with unhappy customers?

Jen Stretch

Jen Stretch is a marketing professional with a decade of web-based technical experience. Her core competencies include and marketing automation consulting, implementation, and training. She is a certified Administrator with five years of marketing automation experience.

Jen is also a enthusiastic cyclist and applies the same competitive spirit that she has on the bike to push businesses out of their comfort zone and beyond their perceived finish line.

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