Amazing grace is a popular hymn written by John Newton and the term Grace is a popular term used in faith to symbolise ‘forgiveness.’ It is a very powerful word that also typifies unmerited favour and reconciliation. Anne Lamott opined that; “I do not understand the mystery of grace- only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” It is a powerful yet mysterious term.
Forgiveness is one of the closest synonym’s to the word grace. It takes courage and humility to forgive. The word forgiveness is attracting more attention with the recent murder in Charleston. At the hearing, I was overwhelmed and touched when the family members of the victims all said they forgave the murderer. It made me look deeply into the powerful word of ‘forgiveness.’ Is it a term that is ignored in life in general and customer experience in particular? I asked myself.
In customer experience, we are always in pursuit of the Holy Grail, the magical nugget or cutting-edge findings that would transform our relationship with customers. We get consulting and research teams on board, to uncover that hidden terminology, software or idea that will make us top the customer-centric charts.
Most times, the simple principles in life are capable of transforming our customer experience. We tend to ignore these principles or terms, as they do not stem from a ground-breaking research or not have the grandiose feel.
Forgiveness is a very powerful term in life that could transform your customer experience. Research like that carried out by the Temkin Group, looked at how customers are more likely to forgive a company after a bad service. In this instance, I am looking at how a company adopts the principles of forgiveness to deliver exceptional CX.
I have been collating insights into Amazon’s trend setting customer experience. This has been made possible with recent interactions with the customer service team at the Amazon seller central.
A few days ago, I received an email in relation to sending through more products, above the limit, for the Amazon fulfilment service. The message I received from the customer service team embodied tenets of forgiveness and created a happy customer in me.
Insights from Amazon’s forgiveness-based CX:
1) Identification of the problem: The first step in forgiving a customer that may have erred like jumping a shop floor queue or walking into a store via the exit door is by identifying the issue. Ignoring this would lead to a chaotic customer experience for other customers on the queue. Amazon identified that I had mistakenly sent goods over the required limit (I sent the goods straight from my supplier, without realising my supplier had incorrectly counted the quantity of the products).
2) Explanation of the problem: Amazon explained how I had exceeded the number of units required for the fulfilment program. They explained in text and in pictures. This was made as clear as possible.
3) Request acknowledgement from the customer: When a customer walks into the store with a door that indicates exit, it is important to make them acknowledge that the door is designated for exits and that next time they come into the store, they are required to use the entrance door. Amazon made me click on the acknowledgement button, to state that I understood that I had gone above the required inventory limit.
4) The issue becomes history: A customer erred or deviated against you set policy, they are pointed to this and they acknowledge accordingly. They also promise that this will never re-occur. A customer obsessed company will accept this and make it history. The interaction on the customer’s account won’t be littered with the act. It is forgiven and is now history. When I checked my Amazon’s seller central account, I did not see a reminder or a plethora of notes stating how the required inventory limit was exceeded. You forgive the customer and do not nag them with the given issue.
5) Direct customers to resources that will help prevent the re-occurrence of the problem: Amazon directed me to their online resources that contain required inventory guidelines. A customer that returns a product 15 days after purchase, when your return policy is 14 days, deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt and forgiven. The best practice will be to execute the demand but referring him or her to manuals or online resources that indicate your return and exchange process.
As companies strive for fresh perspectives and insights in transforming the experience of her customers, doing the simple things seem to be a lot powerful. Forgiveness and to a larger extent grace is that conscious effort to look beyond the mistake of a customer and treat them with acceptance and dignity. In the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Strong and customer-centric companies know how to forgive and treat customers with respect.