A customer chooses your product or service, and everything meets her expectations. Great! You should have a satisfied customer.
But what happens if a customer chooses your product or service, then something goes very wrong. Is it a disaster? Absolutely not! It’s a powerful opportunity to create a more than satisfied customer—even a loyal brand advocate and future returning purchaser.
All you need to do is handle the complaint so remarkably well that you surprise the buyer. And, in a world of lackluster service, you don’t have to jump through too many hoops to create surprisingly good customer experiences. You just need to empower (and encourage) your people to genuinely help and care.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t treat customer problems as opportunities. Instead, they make problems worse through their poor handling of the customer. The recipe for this failure includes ingredients like
- Defensiveness and blaming
- Long phone waits and labyrinthine automated phone systems
- Horribly unusable websites—including those designed to make it difficult to engage with a real human being
All of these issues—and many more—grow from what I believe is an inherently flawed core value system that’s built on protecting the company’s cost structure from the raiding hordes (aka customers).
An Example of the Right Approach
Recently, my iPhoto crashed—locked up completely. So I called Apple Care Express. Downside: I spent a long time on the phone with their rep. Upside: I spent a long time on the phone with their rep, a real, live person who was honest, concerned, and doing everything in his power to solve my problem. And when he had exhausted his capabilities, he arranged for a higher-level tech to call me back the very next day.
When that next day came, the higher-level rep called me on time, cared, and tried his best. But even he couldn’t fix my problem. So he arranged for their highest-level technician to call me later that same day.
Again, the tech called me on time, cared, and tried. And fixed it. (Finally.)
True, in this case, the adversity was ugly. Investing all this time could have been exceedingly frustrating for me. But I’m human, too. (As are your customers.) So I understand that things go wrong. To me, and to most people, what matters most isn’t the problem itself, but how the problem is addressed.
Did I spend many infuriating hours dealing with difficult websites, confusing phone systems, and irritable, time-pressed, un-empowered service reps? Or did I spend many not-so-frustrating hours dealing with honest people who cared and were enabled to help?
If it was the former, I would have been likely to end relationship with the company—even if I had to pay twice as much for a more service-oriented competitor’s wares. And at the very least, I would have developed a negative brand impression and probably vented my frustrations to many others.
But since it was the latter, I’ll be sticking around—and singing Apple‘s praises to my colleagues and friends. (And to the whole world via this blog!)
If you’ve had a problem with Apple, Dyson, Zappos, Mercedes, Lexus, Costco, American Express, or other great, service-oriented companies, then you’ve experienced the phenomenon of your own response to very frustrating issues met with very excellent service. You know how powerful it can be. And hopefully, you’ve been inspired to create a similar culture within your own organization.
Here’s a fun first step that I suggest to my clients: call your own company with a complaint (or, if you own or work for a smaller business where the rep might know you, have a friend call and listen in). I bet you’ll be inspired to take some real action right away.
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