How To Save Unhappy Customers

Posted by Remo Picchietti on February 4, 2016

The popular 2015 comedy film, The Intern, stars Anne Hathaway and the venerable Robert De Niro. The opening scene finds Hathaway’s character, the millennial founder & CEO of an online fashion site, taking a service call “to stay close to customers”. Though written for entertainment, the scene is a valuable management lesson.

Hathaway’s character adroitly handled a disappointed (and hysterical) customer. After attending the JuntoClass on Hiring, Managing & Firing, it’s almost as if she followed Jay Goltz’s S-A-V-E process for keeping an unhappy buyer as a customer.

Jay, an instructor for the Junto Institute, is a popular business speaker, blogger, published author and founder and CEO of the Goltz Group, a family of five design-minded companies dedicated to combining beautiful objects, passionate people and authentic customer service.


Jay’s proven S-A-V-E process for saving a customer is as elegant as it is effective. In order to prevent unhappy customers from fleeing, Jay takes these appropriate steps (as did Hathaway’s character):

  • S - Sympathize: Simple, sincere statements such as  “I can understand why you are upset,” or, “Yes, I can see the problem,” or, “I’m so sorry that we have put you through this” can go a long way in calming most people.
  • A - Act: Solve the problem. Saying “I’m going to do my best” is not good enough. It’s important to say “I’m going to solve the problem” and then follow through. This could be followed with something like “I’m going to talk to the person who does our scheduling,” or, “I’m going to go back to production to take care of this myself”.
  • V - Vindicate: It’s important to let the customer know that this isn’t business as usual. In Jay’s custom framing business, if something is framed improperly he says, “We have a quality control inspector in addition to your sales consultant who checked over your order. They usually catch things like this. Obviously they dropped the ball. I’m really embarrassed. This kind of performance did not get us where we are today. Again, I’m really sorry.”
  • E - Eat Something: Customers didn’t pay you to receive bad service. Many times it’s appropriate to give them something. A restaurant might offer a free dessert, another company might offer free delivery or a discount. It costs a lot to find a new customer; it’s certainly worth something to keep an existing one.

As De Niro’s character states in the film, “You’re never wrong to do the right thing” and doing the right thing helps to maintain a strong relationship with your customer.

If you need more information on saving customers...


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