How to gain market share when things are tough

Customers are fed up with all the excuses du jour that blame soaring inflation, labor shortages, third-party supply chain issues, the government and the impact of COVID for the current state of the economy.

Good companies find ways to provide answers and solutions for real problems without resorting to asserting: “It’s not our fault; it’s the economy, stupid.”

It begins with training and an attitude adjustment for all who deal with customers. Your employees first need a “script” to try and satisfy an unhappy customer. If a dialog starts well, it’s more likely to end positively. Just as in medicine, first, do no harm and don’t make things worse.

Employees need to be given tools to make interactions with customers more of a positive experience. This includes providing front-line employees the authority to suggest alternative, more flexible solutions.

The squeaky wheel gets the oil. Leadership’s job is to ensure the “WD-40” is kept at bay so the problem doesn’t escalate up the chain of command, further delaying and aggravating the customer.

Here are a couple of personal examples: My wife and I were booked on a high-end cruise ship. On the departure day, the airlines couldn’t transport us to Europe in time to meet the boat before it sailed. We had the ship’s independent third-party travel insurance as part of the package. Unfortunately, the insurance provider didn’t honor the claim promptly and wouldn’t respond to inquiries. Rather than arguing with the initial representative on the phone, I called a top executive of the tour company. In a few days, the claim was paid in full without the executive making excuses. He just fixed the problem. That’s how to gain market share because the next time I travel, I will think of this company even though its insurance company fell short.

Second example: I bought a luxury car. Before I wrote the check, I told the sales manager that to seal the deal I needed a side letter guaranteeing a loaner when necessary. When the inevitable occurred, I called the service representative, who descended into trivial details about why he couldn’t provide the loaner. I lost patience and immediately sent an email with a copy of my side letter to the service manager. Within hours I begrudgingly had the loaner. My next car, however, won’t be from this dealer because, although I prevailed, no one said they were sorry for the hassle.

This gets us to the golden opportunity to gain market share. First, train your people not to dwell on blaming others, including exogenous forces. Make sure your tangential partners know your rules of engagement. When a customer has a problem with your third-party supplier, but pays you, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

According to American Express research, 95 percent of the time, an unhappy customer will tell 15 others their story of woe. Explain to your team the exponential cascading effects of those 15 telling another 15, each taking the damage done by a signal misstep to almost 250 negative impressions.

You don’t even have to be great, just better than your competition. As it’s been said: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed person is king or queen.”
Customers are mad as hell and just aren’t going to take it anymore. To gain market share, take advantage of the competitions’ failings. ●

Visit Michael Feuer’s website to learn more about his columns, watch videos and purchase his books, “The Benevolent Dictator” and “Tips From The Top.”

Michael Feuer

Founder and CEO