…exploring pitfalls for new opportunities to fine-tune your customer experience
Forget all the nice things we have said about Customer Experience, in the real-world things can go wrong as Murphy’s law popularly states “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” This is extended in some cases as, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong and at the worst possible time.” Dealing with angry clients is not the most interesting experience for any business or brand.
Finding yourself in the spot where the customer genuinely expresses sentiments as a result of an encounter gone wrong leading to harsh criticisms is hard to take in. What probably preoccupies your mind in such encounters is your brand’s reputation which is extremely valuable and is not something you want to lose. How do you recover from the bad experience pit? Fortunately, such encounters are not the end of the world. It is possible for you to (and should) use these downfalls for new opportunities, to grow as a business, fine-tune your customer experience and improve your products.
As the expression goes “There is always light at the end of the tunnel.” When your customer is angry or frustrated how do you counteract that emotion? The story of my outing with a former boss of mine always comes to mind, (please don’t get tired of the story). We went out together this particular evening, while I ordered a simple Chinese fried rice he went for lobsters. As it turned out the lobsters were badly done. He complained to the waiter who turned very defensive however his boss noticed the argument going on between them and quickly stepped in to offer compensation.
Although my boss turned it down he appeared quite satisfied with the reaction of the manager so he let sleeping dogs lie and just offered advice to ensure that this was not repeated in the future. One lesson here we must take note of is this, always remember, the client is not mad at you, but rather at the company – so don’t take it personally. In such situations allow your customers to freely vent and express their frustrations as it shows them that you are willing to listen and help. How many times have I personally had to deal with an agent or waiter who is unwilling to accept blame for something gone wrong?
When you do find yourself in the corner while dealing with an unhappy customer know that however bad the situation may seem at the time there is always a certainty that you can turn this around and win the customer back. Dr. Jeffrey Magee and Myra Golden in their book Beyond WOW recommend several steps to recover and turn complaints into profits. A few of these shared in this piece among others are; expressing appreciation for feedback, telling the customer what you are going to do, solving the problem, following up to ensure that the issue is resolved, Learning, reflecting, and keep improving.
Express your gratitude to the customer when they offer you feedback. How about thanking the customer in this way, “Thank you for taking the time to tell us about this. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.” You may start the interaction by asking questions such as, why the customer was unhappy with your service. This way you will find out what has gone wrong so that you are in a better place to follow up with relevant questions.
Studies suggest that we will tell 8-10 people if we have bad customer experiences in comparison to only 2-3 people if we have a good customer experience. Consequently, dissatisfied customers are likely to give you all the information you require. By allowing a customer the chance to express themselves you stand a significant chance of winning them back. One word of caution, if you are dealing with a complaint on social media, for example, ensure that you discuss it with the customer via direct message. This way you avoid airing your dirty laundry to competitors!
As much as there is no rule book here note a few tips offered by experts on dealing with feedback for effective results. Firstly, be professional and don’t leave your customer hanging. They have high expectations during this sensitive moment. Secondly, avoid harsh phrases such as “I am unable to do that for you” or “It’s company rules.” Aim for cool and composed phrases such as “We understand your frustration. We’re here to help you” or “Walk us through the issue you’ve been experiencing and we’ll look into this for you immediately.”
Thirdly, if the situation is right, don’t be afraid to apologize for the way they are feeling about the experience. For example, “We apologize for any frustration this matter has caused you.” Sincerity and patience will go a long way towards winning your customer back.
Tell the Customer what you are doing (Take responsibility)
Being calm in difficult situations can be very daunting. Finding yourself in a difficult situation can lead you to make spontaneous decisions. Note that your customers feel the same way. Negative emotions can lead to them packing up and leaving your company for good. Remember, every customer complaint is not your fault.
However, since you are one of the faces of the company, it’s important to take ownership of any slip-up. Start by identifying the issues caused by your company and address the matter. Offer a generous and genuine apology and back it up by telling them how you will solve the problem. An example of a company taking responsibility is the apology from Shell recently when customers found that water had entered their tank due to a leakage at one of their pump stations. They went on to inform the public of what they were doing to assuage the issue.
I hope I observed right when I saw that their price increase was delayed a tad after other companies had increased their price per litres as compensation for the mishap. Recently I had an issue with my metre during the top-up of units for electricity. We use the new metres supplied by ECG with the App functionality. Therefore, I can top up my metre using the App and pay from my Momo wallet. The last time I used that process the automatic top-up failed even though I received a MoMo alert of the payment, so my lights went off on a Saturday!
I immediately called the Call Centre and complained to them. This friendly lady who received the call sensed that I was distressed. She calmly asked what the problem was and managed to get the full account from me in the conversation. After telling me what she was going to do, she went on to talk me through the process of topping up manually, and voila on came the lights.
Follow up to ensure that the issue is resolved
A helpful approach here is by implementing a smart ticketing system so that your support team can keep track of any interactions you have with your customers and allow you to follow up in an organized and timely manner. When working in desktop support in Total UK years ago I used the company’s smart ticketing system to track and resolve client issues regularly. My experience from that process was that you can keep track of all the issues and communicate to other members of the team when they needed to be escalated or referred to other team members.
After handling the situation or passing it on to the relevant team, the customer may still have some lingering thoughts. That alone should be a good reason to follow up with them and retain their satisfaction and loyalty. Just check with them through a phone call or a “Thank you” email (the choice of channel is at your discretion). You don’t need to invest too much of your time in this process, however, ensure that you do it systematically – it may seem a simple thing to say, but it also shows your customers that you are willing to go that extra mile for them.
Admittedly you may not have the sophistication of a smart ticketing system. This will not derail your customer experience endeavour in any way. What is key here is to have an effective mechanism for communicating customer issues to ensure that the whole team is aligned when dealing with an issue at hand. It is all about paying attention to detail and ensuring that all the I’s are dotted and T’s crossed. Inform the appropriate team members and put a plan in place to follow up with the unhappy customer.
Work with your leadership team to understand what you are willing to offer to turn an experience around. Customers appreciate discounts and refunds the most but are sure to understand what is within reason based on the situation presented. All you may need to settle an issue is by offering a sincere apology, which still means a lot.
Learn, reflect and keep improving
Mistakes happen all the time. Whether you are a small business or a corporate company, dealing with unhappy customers daily is part of the learning process. Leverage the experiences as a way to improve the overall way you implement feedback and improve communication. Regardless of whether it is to enhance your product or adjust your customer service based on insights, be sure to take the next step to go above and beyond.
Begin by tracking common issues that arise from customer feedback and build a plan on how you will implement them in your product or service. Learning from your customers is one of the best assets you have. Telling them that you are aware of these issues and working on a fix gives them confidence that they have chosen the right brand to work with, and in return leaves a long-lasting impression.
It is about continuous improvement. If you can’t fully predict the mistakes, use them as a basis for continuous learning and improvement of your business’s process in delivering an extraordinary customer experience. When you have identified what went wrong try to understand why it went wrong. By understanding why it went wrong, it becomes much easier to prevent it from happening again in the future.
The responsibility of turning the bad into extraordinary is on the whole human resources regardless of which department they work in, if they find themselves in a situation that can help improve the customer experience, they will need to jump in and do everything they can do.
Great customer experience is the result of deliberate planning within the business with the aim of delivering an out-of-the-world experience for the customer. To do this effectively you must ensure that the mindset of CX is woven into the very fibre of your business. If your goal is to develop and deliver a system that enables you to build world-class customer experience into your company culture, then you need to create a winning internal customer-centric culture by continually evaluating and refining your offering at all touchpoints so you can always deliver the optimum experience.
Customer Experience Professionals Ghana Presents the Annual Customer Experience Professionals Ghana Conference, a cross-industry meeting place bringing together over 300 global thought leaders, professionals, and innovative solution providers in Ghana.
The theme for this year’s conference is “Accelerating Growth Through Customer Experience: The Case of Organizations and Industries.”
Date: Thursday, 6th October 2022
Time: 09:00 a.m.
Venue: Labadi Beach Hotel, Accra, Ghana.