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Three Ways To Avoid Customer Rage 

Paul Selby | Nov 6, 2017 390 views 2 Comments

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I came across an article this week that immediately caught my attention: Top Takeaways From The 2017 Customer Rage Study. While the study itself is not yet available on the Customer Care and Measurement & Consulting website, the fact that they have previously conducted similar research and you can filter articles by the subject of “rage” leads me to believe they are a bit of an expert.

Just the highpoints of the study reported in the article demonstrate the unfortunate fact of how often customers are highly dissatisfied with a product or service. In 2017–and we’re not even through the year yet!–56% of respondents (which was extrapolated to 62 million families) indicated having experienced at least one problem. The research also indicates customer service issues reported by people have increased by more than 20% over the last 40 years. Sadly, nearly 80% of respondents indicated they still aren’t happy after the company attempted to rectify the problem.

These statistics are sobering. One fact to take away is that at some point more than half of customers will experience a problem requiring assistance. So what’s the best course of action to respond to issues not only in the moment but long-term?

Make Service Effortless

Now more than ever, customers are starting online when they need help. Forrester cites web self-service use increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014, with further growth in recent years. Customers have the confidence to self-serve and are looking for always-available solutions. What are you offering to meet their needs?

A knowledge base is a flexible means of providing solutions to frequently asked questions or solutions requiring the customer to follow a series of manual steps. Commonly requested documentation (such as forms or manuals) can be attached to articles. Bear in mind two potential issues might limit customer success with your knowledge base: a narrow search function and lack of periodic updates and curation of your articles. If customers can’t readily find what they are looking for, or what they find is out-of-date, they will frustratingly be forced to turn to other channels for assistance.

Going beyond manual actions in your knowledge base, what common solutions can you automate? Some examples of common actions customers might be seeking are to change an address, update their billing information, or check order status. These and other typical requests can be automated through self-service actions, tying your online customer service portal directly into your backend systems and processes, saving the time of customers and agents alike, as well as speeding resolution.

Connect Customer Service To Your Business

Your customer service team is the face of your company to your customers. They respond to a wide range of inquiries on a daily basis and work diligently to solve them. The unfortunate reality is many of the issues they take calls, emails, and chats for are as a result of a failure born elsewhere in the company–perhaps a step missing from a product manual, a faulty product due to a problem in manufacturing, or an incorrect billing statement. Like the origin of these problems, their ultimate and permanent solution lies outside of customer service.

How well is your customer service connected to other departments in your organization? Without these connections, problems cannot be solved at their source. Always be focusing efforts on sharing issues with the rest of your organization. When these problems can be quantified by real volume data as well as the corresponding costs, these other departments will sit up and take accountability to address their issues, not only driving down the volume of these issues (and saving costs to customer service) but also increasing the product or service quality for your customers–and reducing rage.

Transform From Reactive To Proactive

Customer service is a responsive action to customers having a question or issue and is therefore tends to be reactive in nature. As such, service centers are staffed with agents standing by to assist, waiting for the phone to ring or the chat queue to fill–and when lines are busy and queues are full, customers wait, further fueling that possibility of rage. Reactive service may be inevitable, but one way to serve customers better is to address their issue before they even realize it exists.

How? As you notice trends developing in requests and it becomes clear that all or a growing subset of your customers will be impacted, notify those not-yet-affected customers that you’re aware– and with a solution if it’s available. This is possible through early identification of service request trends and maintaining good customer contact information, what products/services they own (and any corresponding use information that might be relevant to the problem and solution) to quickly zero in those customers likely to be affected.

Imagine their reaction if you were to email or call to notify them of a possible issue and an available solution. Not only will the customer have greater respect for your company and brand by this unexpected effort, but customer service will be spared the time and effort necessary to help these customers. You’ve also successfully addressed a situation before rage can develop!

Don’t Be A Rage Statistic

Complexities in today’s products and services and underlying company processes mean problems are an unavoidable fact of doing business. Customers understandably get frustrated when issues occur, and that frustration is only compounded when a fast and simple solution isn’t’ available. How can you avoid feeding that potential rage?
Start by offering and maintaining self-service options for your known issues–an effortless means for customers to find their own solutions anytime, anywhere. When problems are identified, customer service should use its healthy and strong relationships to the rest of the company to take the problem back to the source so that rather than offering a one-time workaround to customers, issues are permanently resolved for both current and future customers. Finally, when issue trends become apparent, proactively notify potentially affected customers of a pending or available solution.

No one likes to be a negative statistic. With effortless, connected, and proactive customer service, you can avoid becoming a contributor to a future customer rage study.
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2 Responses to Three Ways To Avoid Customer Rage

  1. Andrew Rudin November 9, 2017 at 1:34 pm (240 comments) #

    I think embedding the words Customer Rage into the title of a study creates a fundamental bias problem. For me, that’s a ‘hard stop’ when it comes to attributing objectivity and credibility to the findings. I’m more likely to trust neutral terms like Customer Experience. Rage makes good clickbait, but one person’s rage is another person’s annoyance, another person’s no-worries-he’ll-get-over-it. Borrowing words from someone much wiser than me, “the purpose of statistics is to inform people how to decide, not to tell them what to believe.”

    It doesn’t surprise me that reported incidents of service problems have increased in the last forty years. That’s not necessarily an indication of “customers becoming more demanding than ever,” as pundits commonly say. Nor does it necessarily mean service is worsening. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that customers today have many ways to communicate with companies, and many of them allow greater spontaneity. Forty years ago, when we wanted to complain or get service help, we filled in “comment cards” and dropped them in the mail, or we called a toll-free phone number.

    Despite being skeptical about the Rage Survey (I quoted the same survey in a previous year for one of my articles), I think you have provided solid, useful recommendations for companies. Regardless of the objectivity (or lack) of the “Rage” statistics, I think every company needs to consider your points for mitigating the risk of customer dissatisfaction.

  2. Paul Selby November 10, 2017 at 9:03 am (3 comments) #

    Thank you for the read and thoughtful comments. As I noted about that company performing their “rage” report every two years or so, you might be right that it’s a vehicle to generate more interest and traffic for them.

    The other point I thought interesting was how there are more problems reported. Do we all collectively have shorter fuses, higher expectations, a combination of the two (as I suspect), or more? Regardless, I agree that really it comes down to understanding what the customer’s expectation and then doing everything possible (and reasonable) to match that experience.

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