Managing Customer Experience – When Customers Give you Lemons…

Effective Twitter BrandingTV actor Charlie Sheen, on a tirade against his (now former) employer, blitzed every major media outlet and amassed a Twitter following of 2 million people in about 2 days venting about how he had been wronged by the network executive.

Thanks to Sheen and Twitter, angry people everywhere now have the wherewithal to launch a full-scale brand attack on any service, product or boss that rubs them the wrong way. Businesses have an opportunity to make brand ambassadors out of their most difficult or dissatisfied customers, yet so few fail to do so – why?

Small business owners are busy – trying to run operations smoothly while also bringing in revenue. Sometimes it is just as easy to let a customer or employee leave without explanation rather than to seek out and receive negative feedback. But the rise of social media for the masses has made it easier than ever for customers to seek out reviews and referrals online – as well as to share their experiences (good AND bad) with a particular company/product/person.

Here are a few quick tips to make sure your business is proactive with feedback:

  1. Lend an Ear

    Customers are usually confused before they are unhappy. Make sure that your customers and employees have access to seek assistance and remember that not everyone is comfortable sending in an e-mail or web form. Use a dedicated phone number that allows people to speak to a live person for questions or complaints. If you must lead them to submitting a form or leaving a voicemail, make sure you indicate the turnaround time for a response to properly set expectation that you are in fact seeing or hearing their concerns.

    If your business is already receiving real-time feedback, make sure that you immediately diffuse tension and you or your support rep takes a pause to calmly acknowledge how the person is feeling. Apologize for whatever confusion or misunderstanding that may have caused this feeling and assure the customer your FIRST priority is to get an understanding of his/her original needs. Do this IMMEDIATELY before they have the chance to update their bad mood on Facebook or Twitter.

  2. Take Ownership

    Effective customer experience management means not only taking ownership of issues, but also taking ownership of resolutions. Document the customer’s experience. Break it up into numbered steps and compare it to the ideal customer experience. Where there is a discrepancy, acknowledge the bump in the road and appreciate their point of view.

    Explain your intentions were not to have the customer experience your services/products in this way, but don’t dwell on the ‘would-ah, should-ah’ because that will just put your customer back on the defensive.Let the customer know that you see how he/she arrived at that scenario and that you plan to take personal ownership of resolving their issue and improving their experience. That could take several forms:

    • Personally helping a customer activate his/her account,
    • Managing his/her next order personally, and
    • Individually coaching the off-script sales representative to provide better information to new customers.

  3. ASK for additional feedback

    Again, so few small businesses don’t even get this far with unhappy customers so if you manage to make good on a ‘make-good’ with them. Asking these people for additional feedback on how to improve your service will not only make an impression on them, but will also make them more eager to recommend your business to others.