Satisfied customers are good… Hopping mad they’re even better!


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Bill Gates once famously said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Often they’re not a lost cause. Your strongest friendships are usually with people who you’ve shared eventful situations with. Why should the relationships with your customers be any different?

Expressing emotion shows that they care about the relationship. It’s customers that are simmering with rage that we should be fearful of as they’re past the point of no return and likely to churn, telling anyone they can about the poor experience in the process.

This 7 step framework is typical of common approaches for resolving conflict. Frontline staff that do pick up on an issue often don’t deal with it though. The most common reasons I’ve encountered are avoidance of confrontation, risk of poor customer feedback and targets to reduce the number of customer complaints.

Often enterprises don’t even know that there’s a problem because there isn’t a mechanism in place to spot them. British retailer Marks & Spencer demonstrates the value in establishing such a mechanism. Their improved profitability can be linked to a 20% reduction in customer complaints. They attributed an improvement in fabric quality to the results achieved.

Hopping mad customers are an opportunity to turn the situation around to build empathy, advocacy and profitability. Here are 4 ways to make this happen.

1. Empathise to get results for you and your customers
In addition to the steps in the framework already mentioned, sometimes improvements in listening can be achieved by introducing usability enhancements to resolve shortfalls in systems and processes (e.g. a contact centre desktop enhancement at one of our clients delivered a significant uplift in NPS).

The best service companies like Apple train their staff to say yes, tell the customer what they’re going to do about it and ask if that’s OK. Once the customer has agreed it diffuses the situation. Empowering staff is also important, a topic Chris covered recently in his blog getting your employees to say ‘yes’.

2. Single automated approach to identifying and resolving customer issues
Customers regularly tell you about problems via social media, complaints or surveys. Using this information with validation through analysis of operational data will give you the direct correlation between a customer experience problem and the uplift in performance, just like the Marks & Spencer example.

To sustainably embed this approach, monitor all methods customers use to tell you about poor experiences using a single method of response. Then ensure that workflows and escalations are in place so that the customer gets the appropriate response. Finally track and report on the results so that all executives can see the link between root cause and improved business performance.

3. Prioritise responses
Use business rules to make decisions on which customers to respond to. The rules should take into account which customer has an issue (e.g. high value or at risk), operational pressures (e.g. grade of service in the contact centre), and the issue encountered. If a customer has an issue that is either new or known but with no root cause, then it’s important to follow up to find out more.

4. Be proactive
Support the frontline by helping employees to engage with customers at appropriate times, to deliver better outcomes for both parties. Use predictive modelling to understand when these moments are going to happen and establish workflows to ensure you get the results. For example, during a house purchase a bank could reach out to customers at each stage of the process, informing them what they need to do and what the bank is doing on their behalf to ensure they move in as planned.

Use these suggestions and hopefully you won’t be the subject of another famous Bill Gates quote, “Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can’t lose.”

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Johnson
David is an experienced management and technology consultant specialising in major customer-centred programs of change with a speciality in contact centre transformation and design. He leads our Contact Centre services practice. David has led numerous initiatives that have delivered significant improvements to his client's business results.


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