Avoiding Customer Fails and Why The Customer Was Always Right in 2014


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We are undeniably operating in the “Age of the Connected Customer,” an era where engaging with customers is of the utmost importance and brands are competing on customer experience over price point. With the ushering in of this new era, the rise of social media has also skyrocketed, creating an instant forum for customers to share their adoration of brands and a means to resolve their questions and complaints. In fact, 72% of consumers say that if they post a customer service request on social media, they expect a response within one hour . This not only provides an unprecedented opportunity for a personalized customer service revolution, but can also risk devastating a brand if not utilized to its full capacity.

We’ve all witnessed brands failing to properly address complaints, and instead, have listened to a four minute 36 second song detailing how United breaks guitars (currently at 14 million views and counting on YouTube), or an eight minute 15 second phone call between a Comcast customer service representative and a customer attempting to close their account. And, who can forgetHealthcare.gov, which led to a formal apology from the President of the United States? While these calls only last for minutes and Healthcare.gov has since been fixed, the frustrations, enhanced by the social media echo chamber, live on.

Even months and years later, the virality of this content is staggering. To avoid these customer service missteps in 2015, brands should follow these guidelines to provide personalized, instant support on every channel:

1. Admit You Failed. When faced with a frustrated customer, listen to them and apologize. It’s immeasurable how far a “sorry” can go. There’s nothing more frustrating for a customer than hearing attitude or complacency on the other end of the phone. Treat their problem like you would your own.

2. Make Good On Promises. If your company has a policy to call the customer back within 24 hours after escalating a case, do it. A customer experience is a journey; each step needs to be a positive encounter in order for it to be viewed as a success.

3. Be Human. We live in an age where everything is automated, so take the extra step to connect with your customer. Be succinct, informative, and helpful, but also reassure customers on an emotional level. Acknowledge your customers’ frustration and avoid canned language or scripts to facilitate resolution. Showing empathy towards their specific situation can turn a bad experience into a positive and personalized one that will lead to loyalty.

4. Find a Solution. Customer service situations can be extremely complicated, but always find a solution. Solutions can range from escalating the case, to providing alternative services and refunds, to actual case resolution. No one wants to hang up the phone feeling like they lost time.

5. Never Lose the Lesson. There’s something to learn from both positive and negative customer service experiences. If an action an agent took led to a happy customer, track that and share it with the larger team. The same goes for negative experiences. This type of transparency within teams will lead to quicker response times and a higher resolution rate for customers.

Technology exists to help enhance the personalized, one-on-one experience, not replace it. As the old adage goes, “the customer is always right” and no matter how you slice it, that will always remain true. The customer is right when they contact you via social media with a question and expect resolution, the customer is right when they want to engage with a human and not an automated system, and the customer is right when they demand exceptional customer service. In 2015, all brands should resolve to meet their customers where they are—email, phone, social—respond in a timely manner, and provide outstanding customer service every step along the way.

Mike Milburn
Michael Milburn is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of Salesforce Service Cloud, the #1 customer service solution enabling companies to provide amazing customer service on any device, anytime, through any channel. Service Cloud is also the landslide Leader of Gartner's Magic Quadrant in customer service. Michael is responsible for driving the innovation and direction of Service Cloud, ensuring that businesses are empowered with an all-in-one customer support platform.


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