Tag Archives: Douglas Olsen

Small Business Leadership Academy

Small Business Leadership Academy: Handling Dissatisfied Customers

If you are in business, you’ve had unhappy customers. No matter how excellent your services or products, at some point someone will have issues. Customers often experience buyer’s remorse — it’s a simple fact. And because nothing is perfect, even the best businesses make mistakes. So, how can business owners handle the inevitable?

Douglas Olsen, associate professor of marketing, says businesses often “abandon the customer after the sale” — that is, they don’t follow up. And because only four percent of dissatisfied customers speak up, chances are there are folks out there who interacted with your company and don’t feel warm and fuzzy about it.

Olsen, who is teaching the marketing class in the W. P. Carey School’s Small Business Leadership Academy, says there are practical steps that any company can take to respond to customers who are unhappy with their experiences. Research — much of it pioneered at the Center for Services Leadership at W. P. Carey — shows that dissatisfied customers can be turned into loyalists if the service breakdown is addressed wisely.

For starters, Olsen recommends developing a system for keeping in touch with customers. This can be as simple as a phone call or email. Second, make sure customers you’re your policy on dispute resolution, and where and how to complain.

Here are a few things to remember when the news isn’t good — and handling dissatisfied customers:

  • Other stresses in your customer’s life are probably affecting his feelings about your business.
  • Listen actively: What are their thoughts? What’s their rationale? Focus on solutions.
  • Step outside yourself and don’t make assumptions; try to see the situation through your customer’s eyes. Be empathetic. Show your customer that he/she has your full attention.
  • Restate the problem so that you can be sure you have understood correctly.
  • Make sure your customer knows what the next step is, and when he/she will hear from you again.

Training may be needed to assure that your employees know how to handle an unhappy, sometimes angry, customer. They should have some flexibility to offer resolution, and they should know who is responsible for implementation. Olsen says there is rarely a reason to be defensive — a stance that only aggravates the situation.

A customer who lets you know that something is amiss gives you the opportunity to improve your business — and ultimately increase the number of happy loyal customers.
Looked it that way, Olsen says, a complaint is a gift!


Listen to the podcast: “Why Complaints are Good for Business”


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.

Small Business Leadership Academy

2012 Small Business Leadership Academy: A Fresh Look At Marketing

Management guru Peter Drucker said, “the aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Business owners in the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) are taking a fresh look at marketing with guidance from Douglas Olsen, associate professor of marketing at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

The basis of marketing, he explained, is the knowledge of what customers want, need and will pay for. But many companies, Olsen added, start with a great idea and then expect the customers to find it. The problem is that many of the entrepreneurs never bothered to think about whether anyone needs their big idea. A product can be the best gizmo ever built, but if it doesn’t fulfill a customer’s desires or needs, it won’t succeed. In other cases, even if the product or service is great, the people so close to the product sometimes tend to talk too much about the features and the technical details — to a point where they do not truly convey to the customer the real benefits or identify needs being served.

Nonetheless, many successful companies have this figured out, Olsen said. Michelin famously used images of babies sitting in the middle of a tire as a way of saying that they were selling you safety for your family — not just a tire. Not a lot of jargon, just one very compelling message.

The Michelin ad demonstrates the effective use of segmentation. Once you understand your customers, Olsen said, you can use segmentation to target your marketing to them. Segmentation is the process of dividing the market into groups. Consumers may be grouped based on geography,  demographics, benefits, behaviors or psychographics.

Psychographics, for example, are personality characteristics. Olsen showed the group three ads for a certain style of watch. One featured a close-up of a physically imposing man. The second showed a man sitting alone, reading. The third was Pierce Bronson, leaning toward the camera in an impeccable jacket and tie. The ads exemplify psychographic marketing. The first ad with the macho figure appeals to a market segment of men who want to be physically strong; the second ad would appeal to the “self actualizer”; Pierce Bronson personifies the sophistication and daring that another group desires.

In next week’s class we’ll dive deeper into the competitive advantage that services may provide and students will share some of the blueprints that they developed to apply to their business.


Listen to the podcast on W.P. Carey’s website.


The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.