Don’t DM the CEO: Six Support Agent Solutions to Make Unhappy Customers Happy

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If you’ve worked in the customer support industry you can relate. I remember the first time it happened to me. My day was going smoothly until I got the dreaded email—the one that has cascaded its way through the organization and landed in my inbox to resolve. The one that started because an unhappy customer was so displeased, they decided to email the CEO. The one that sent chills down my spine. Did I mention they also tweeted the CEO and dropped a DM to their LinkedIn? While customer support is everyone’s job—even the CEO’s—we have support systems in place and want to make sure they’re successful.

A last-ditch effort

Unhappy customers frequently resort to contacting a company’s CEO as a last-ditch effort to resolve their issues. They do this when they feel their concerns aren’t adequately addressed within the organization, or when the process to find a resolution is taking too long. Afterall, feeling seen and heard is a very basic human need.

Problems like this can arise when there is a breakdown in communication, a product or service failure, frustration with a company policy, and more. When these things happen, customers get angry and escalate their issue to get the attention from the person they hold most accountable for all business issues—the CEO—and press ‘send’ or post without a second thought. I know I’ve done this to businesses and I’ve also been at the receiving end of such emails and posts.

A proactive approach

To prevent unhappy customers from hitting up the CEO on every channel possible, customer support teams can consider some simple, yet proactive strategies:

1. Effective Training: Timely and ongoing training is the most essential building block to make your agents and support reps effective. Training on product and service offerings are important, but soft skills and human skills training are just as critical. Afterall, empathetic agents will not only solve customer problems, they will also make customers feel better. In-person trainings are always fun, but if your organization is distributed, training modules in your internal learning management systems are just as effective.

2. Clear Communication Channels: Implement efficient communication channels for customers to reach support easily. Respond promptly to demonstrate that their concerns matter. If you don’t have enough staff, talk to your SaaS vendor and see if leveraging customer service software for conversational support and ticketing can help take some of the easier queries off agents’ desks so they can spend more time on the more complex issues.

3. Empower Frontline Staff: Give agents the authority to make decisions within reasonable limits, reducing escalations. If a retail agent needs to get approval from a manager every time they want to offer a customer a coupon on their next purchase, it takes more time to resolve the issue and move on. This frustrates not only the customer, but the agent as well. Make simple perk offers standard so agents can call the shots in real time. Empowered agents are the best possible ambassadors any company could wish for.

4. Customer-Centric Policies: Review and adapt policies to be more customer-friendly, reducing friction in the customer journey. Sometimes, customer-friendly policies can be marginally more expensive. However, a simple ROI analysis will reveal that the long-term benefits and revenue gains from such policies will far outweigh the extra cost.

5. Feedback Loops: Encourage customer feedback and use it for continuous improvement of products, services, and support processes. Follow up immediately with a one or two question survey by email or text, asking the customer to rate their satisfaction with their support session.

6. Proactive Issue Resolution: Anticipate and address potential issues before they escalate. If leveraging GenAI capabilities with your software, make responses for these issues part of the automation.

Assess and adjust

Putting proactive strategies in place isn’t enough. Customer support teams need to regularly assess how things are going for both the agents and the customers. How are customer satisfaction scores? Has the CEO received more or less of these emails? Do you have more vocal champions in social and professional forums? Are the proactive strategies working or do they need to be adjusted?

Unhappy customers reaching out to the CEO often indicates underlying organizational issues. Taking a proactive approach to address core problems will empower support teams and cultivate stronger customer relationships, making everyone happier!

Mukesh Mirchandani
Tech exec with 2+ decades of expertise building and selling enterprise tech solutions, and SVP of Solution Engineering at Freshworks. An engineer by education, I've spent a considerable part of my career studying customer and employee engagement and customer service trends. I believe using empathy as a CX tool can create customers for life.

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