…become the master of experience recovery
The world today is full of surprises. Not only are we experiencing change frequently but it also occurs faster than we can cope. The greatest challenge for any business is how to adjust your vision and strategy to not only align but capitalize on the change. The quest to take advantage of the opportunities these adjustments present is now a regularity. To stay on course you must ensure that your vision and strategy have enough thrust and dynamism to sustain your momentum as you lead your organization towards an envisioned future. The journey for the average business today requires that in planning for our customer experience we factor the possibility of the unexpected. The hard truth is that in our New World change is happening faster than we learn.
Customer Experience is now a regular conversation in boardrooms of large organizations as well as in small businesses. The customer is the most important subject here therefore learning as much as you can about this customer will serve you well. This means that the culture of learning must be high on your shopping list of must-haves. To ensure that you adhere to the principle of outside-in thinking, your internals must include learning paths devoid of ‘navel-gazing’ (focusing on your internal needs, rather than understanding it from the customers’ viewpoint to keep them customer happy is navel-gazing).
According to Albert Einstein ‘Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way’. Your strategy must be unique and strongly aligned to your brand. This will require the adoption of a framework encapsulating your teams, investors, customers, and other important stakeholders to ensure alignment with your strategy, culture, and brand. Ultimately, the teams that deliver your strategy and customers who see the fruits of it, must be able to recognize and connect back to you. Is this another way of saying that as a business you need to think out of the box!
This may sound weird but the hard truth is that sometimes bad experiences present opportunities for you to address recurring issues and find that one path that leads you to unparalleled success. A typical scenario is a truly terrible experience you may have encountered and felt like the offending organization did not seem to care. Your instinct in this situation is to ‘vote with your feet and make the decision not to patronize their products or services any longer. Turn this on its head and think carefully about the likelihood of the business working to transform your rubbish experience into an epic one! Your reaction will probably be to give them a second chance.
Your experience strategy stands to gain immensely if you make room for the experience recovery. According to Katie Stabler a Customer Experience Specialist, the ability to remedy a situation, turning bad customer experiences into GREAT experiences and making sure that your customer swiftly moves from feeling dissatisfied to feeling that you have surpassed their expectation, is a necessary ingredient in your best efforts to align with their needs and turn bad experiences into desirable ones. My personal experience from bad to great (as I may have shared a few times) was when I was asked to take my groceries home for free because of a machine malfunction in a supermarket. This happened over a decade ago but my recollection of that experience is vivid and trust me I won’t hesitate to patronize that supermarket again at the next opportunity. That was a recovery scenario which for me served as a great opportunity for a service provider to demonstrate customer-centricity.
Michael Gerber’s experience of personalized services is a great example of how going the extra mile can be a game-changer. His hotel upstate went to great lengths to ensure that he had his preferred breakfast, read his preferred newspapers, and lodged in a room of his own choice without asking for any of those. It is not rocket science, it’s only a case of being creative and observant the net effect of which is the ability to turn even negative experiences into great ones.
Three basic steps are recommended to help you in your experience recovery. They are; plan for failure, empower employees and address the issue.
Plan for failure
Never mind your meticulous planning process when it comes to customer experience, we will discover that no matter how much we care, plan, design, and cultivate sometimes things can go wrong. A plethora of things or incidences may let us down, technology may disappoint us people may fail us, or external events beyond our control may all contribute to potentially undesirable outcomes. A deliberate organization-wide plan to deal with the unexpected prepares you ahead of any unplanned scenarios with the potential to undermine your best efforts. Therefore, your process design must provide for the following.
First, you must guide how to recover a poor experience: where possible your team must be empowered to react flexibly but give them clear guidelines. Apple for example are prepared to replace a gadget for free if customers have to wait too long for repairs to their equipment. Second, let your team know what they are supported to do. Articulating your policies to your operational charges gives clarity on what is and isn’t possible. So for example, if we have a compensation policy that sets clear levels of compensation permitted for each category of issue we make life easy for everyone.
Third, set expectations on how quickly we want the team to act: speed is essential if we want to identify and remedy a bad experience before a customer takes any of their action. Being proactive is the way to go. Being deliberate about training employees in time management, prioritization of customer issues, and dealing with angry customers is the requirement here. Fourth, support a collaborative approach across the organization: avoid working in silos an issue that one customer experiences could be an issue many customers experience so working in teams helps the organization to fully understand the situation. 75 percent of customers believe that it takes too long to reach a live customer agent. By working in teams we can quickly communicate customer issues to employees with the relevant strengths to deal with the issue.
Fifth, promote an issue-tolerant culture by ensuring that the team is confident of raising issues without fear of repercussion. Where there is mistrust and lack of clarity on how to deal with issues this can undermine genuine efforts. Peter Drucker had hard words for the effect of a badly-managed culture. He said ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast. Finally close the loop: where appropriate keep your customers informed. We may have only two customers inform us of a glitch however many more may have been impacted so by not being afraid to hold our hands up we will be better able to deal with the problem and proactively apologize, customers, appreciate honesty and sincerity.
If our team can quickly identify an issue and speedily remedy it we leave the customer feeling fantastic and prevent a possible complaint. How do we support our team to become Recovery Heroes? By providing them detailed guidance as we have just indicated we set them apart as experience recovery heroes. Empower them with the authority to act quickly on an initiative under proper guidance. We must support them by fostering an environment that generates creativity and professionalism. Southwest Airlines motivate employees to take pride in the work they do. By creating a work environment that is fun to be in, the company facilitates a team-based environment with core values that remind their employees to enjoy their work.
Don’t underestimate the role of empowering employees. If your employees align with your organizational philosophy they will support you massively in your customer-centric quest, getting them on board is a critical success factor. Avoid sending your employees into a wall at every turn in their attempt to engage with your initiative by providing them ample support, training, and communication, this is how your customer-centric culture will flourish. Three nuggets to take on board here in empowering your employees; first, provide them with clear guidance to enable them to work independently with clear directions; second, empower them to act on their authority by giving them the right guidance and support; third, support creativity and professionalism, where suitable promote the use of customer experience recovery when the restaurant manager offered my boss a free meal on the house because he complained about the slightly uncooked meal he was engaging him in recovery, and it worked.
Address the issue
Having turned a rubbish issue into a potentially epic one you now have a happy customer! However, your work is not quite finished yet. This is the part where you prevent any other customer from experiencing the same initial poor experience. A few clear steps in addressing this are; identify the root cause of the problem, again Albert Einstein said ‘A problem cannot be solved by the consciousness that created it’ getting to the root of any problem is the first step in resolving it. Next, understand the impact, question to ask is whether it is a recurring problem or a one-off? Has it impacted a few or many clients? The next step then is to work with your team to address the issue. This is where collaboration brings great value, work with your team to address the issue by identifying and resolving it convincingly. Finally, throw in some additional quality assurance to ensure that the problem has been fully dealt with.
You do this by monitoring the experience. Map the customer journey to ensure that the experience they are getting is what is intended. For example, if your wait times are lengthy at touch points say in bank clients wait too long there you resolve it by introducing a queuing system which ensures a smoother flow at your counters, it is worth reviewing to see if the intervention you made did reduce or minimize wait times. Note that this could be a recurring activity so brace yourself for the long haul. An intriguing question could be why bother about Customer Recovery? Your goal is to keep your customers. What better way to do that than to ensure that you have a listening ear to the needs of your esteemed customer. Research has proven unequivocally that it costs more to acquire new customers than to retain existing ones. Therefore, it is more profitable to retain your existing customers. Furthermore, organizations that focus on excelling at providing a great customer experience are also likely to have more engaged employees. Also, note that by retaining your customers you are avoiding costs associated with customer attrition. All of these costs can be mitigated by an effective customer recovery strategy.
Note that your strategy for customer recovery is unique to your organization and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to this. Leaving your customers feeling happy and satisfied regardless of any setbacks they face at your touchpoints, puts you on the right track to great recovery, cost-saving, brand enhancement, and excellent customer retention. What more do you want!
|The Writer is the Managing Consultant at Capability Trust Limited a People and Learning Organisation serving the market with Talent Acquisition and Management, Leadership Development, HR Outsourcing, and General HR Advisory, Training, and consulting services. He can be reached on 059 175 7205,|