I work with a variety of companies — big, small, retail, non-profit — but regardless of who their audience is, they all have a responsibility to deliver a customer experience that not only meets the needs of the community, but aims to exceed it by listening and responding accordingly. That’s where I come in. In addition to lending an extra set of ears and eyes to monitor what their community is saying about them and their experiences, I consult about how best to follow up and address concerns or negative comments expressed online (or off).
It’s no mistake that the companies that are the most successful or show the most potential in their industry are usually the best at providing a great customer experience. I have two clients in particular that “get” customer service and I love to watch them deliver. There is a misconception that companies who deliver great customer experiences are perfect. They aren’t. Sometimes orders get messed up or customers have trouble navigating the website. It doesn’t happen often, but it when it does, these companies learn from it and work to make it better.
You can tell a lot from how a company or organization responds to customer feedback. You can tell almost immediately if customer service is among their business values or not. From my perspective, the companies that don’t value customer satisfaction, have bigger issues to sort out — none of which will be immediately solved by a presence on social media. At that point, it’s an organizational culture issue and it can’t be changed overnight. It takes a great deal of strategy to overcome and has to start at the top. Change also has to be sincere.
For those whose organizational culture is service oriented, it’s inspiring to watch how well their teams work together and what happens when there are breakdowns in communications. Again, it’s not that great companies are perfect — it’s how they respond to things that are imperfect that’s key to their success. When teams aren’t working — they address it head on, not by firing, but rather looking deeper, validating the concerns of team members and collaboratively looking for answers to improve how they work.
Here are a few ways that every company can deliver a great customer experience:
- Take responsibility. If a customer says that something is wrong — try to trouble shoot as best you can to determine what went wrong. However, don’t blame the customer for not being able to figure it out. Own up and apologize. You can’t fix what you don’t know is broken, so even if you question the customer’s ability, keep it in perspective and learn from it so it works next time.
- Validate. Most of the time customers who complain online just want to be heard. We all do it. Being validated by a company in return is actually quite satisfying. By indicating that you heard what they are saying can help retain disgruntled or frustrated customers.
- Offer up a simple gesture. Skeptics will say that complaining customers are just in it for the free rewards. Research has shown this isn’t necessarily the case, however. If a customer is having problems, offer what you think is reasonable. Don’t make it a company policy to deliver X when Y happens. Rather, inspire your employees to solve problems in ways that they deem appropriate. If that’s reimbursing the customer or offering free shipping or throwing in a free coffee — do it — but make it a sincere gesture. As well, don’t just reward the complaining customers. Those who complement or give shout outs for great experiences should be recognized as well. Again, don’t make it a rule to reward, but rather a way for employees to feel empowered about giving back to the community.
- Investigate the issue. The previous steps are great in soothing the immediate concerns of the customer, but the fact is something is broken and needs to be improved. Keep a log of the issues that arise and how you solved or improved them. If the same issues keep coming up, it’s probably not just user error. Once the issue is resolved — advertise it. Let users know that you’ve fixed issues and when their feedback contributed to the solution.
- Lather, Rinse, Repeat. Customer experiences are always evolving and they are continually influenced by different factors, so it’s essential that the customer service you provide stays fresh, transparent and authentic. What works with one customer may not work with another. Get to know who your brand ambassadors are. Track your customer interactions to understand what previous issues or feedback they had and what was done to improve the experience.