Collapses in customer experience are inevitable. Machinery breaks down, services malfunction, or some porch thief steals a customer’s package. The list goes on. And it’s happened to all of us.
Since mistakes (preventable or not) are inescapable, we can only do two things: prepare for them and strategize how to recover customers.
Prepare for Collapses in Customer Experience
Plan, act, adapt, repeat. There’s really nothing else you can do. (unless your Ron Swanson)
Plan– Define clear processes and protocols for customer service, complaints, and crises
Act– Ensure employees follow the processes that have been defined, while also allowing them to address each customer’s concern in a way that is appropriate to the situation and a positive reflection on your brand.
Adapt– Identify common pain-points in the customer journey and address them. These pain-points could be product or service issues, inadequate customer experience, or advertising style. Don’t be afraid to discuss issues with complaining customers and ask them what changes they’d make.
Repeat– Alleviate the pain-points and alter plans as necessary
Ultimately, preparing for a collapse, while crucial, is mostly a reactionary attempt to stay one or two steps ahead. But where these four steps shine is customer perception. Even though you know you’re really just a few steps ahead, customers that have positive interactions with you throughout this process will think that your company’s got their stuff together.
Customer perception has the power to increase customer loyalty behaviors such as word of mouth and their likelihood of forgiving your company when a mistake is made.
However, there are dangers with customer perception. For example, if your system has massive breaks frequently and you’re slow to fix them or failing to give progress updates, your customers may get frustrated and begin to expect the same “work ethic” the next time. This could lead them to seek other options. Negative customer perception can lead to an increase in customer churn.
Alina Wheeler, author of Designing Brand Identity Fourth Edition, explained:
“As competition creates infinite choices, companies look for ways to connect emotionally with customers, become irreplaceable, and create lifelong relationships. A strong brand stands out in a densely crowded marketplace. People fall in love with brands, trust them, and believe in their superiority. How a brand is perceived affects its success, regardless of whether it’s a start-up, a nonprofit, or a product.”
So, how do you keep your customers’ perception positive?
The list above will certainly help, but, if you want your customers to give you the benefit of the doubt after mistake, you need to be more proactive. As we discuss ways to be proactive, remember: consistency breeds trust; trust breeds loyalty. Loyal customers’ have a positive perception of your brand and are more likely to keep that sentiment when things go wrong.
Customers have many expectations of companies. But first on their list is being treated like a human. How do you treat them like a human? Be one yourself.
Let’s think of it this way: imagine your favorite movie. Who are your favorite characters and why?
Your answer probably revolved around the idea that you relate to them. But what makes them relatable? Their ending fight against the villain? How attractive they are? They’re ugly criers and so are you?
No. It’s those little moments, like their witty comments, their reason for doing what they do, or why they’re crying. It’s how they show who they are.
So, how do you show who you are?
Ask for Forgiveness
If you’re going to expect your customers to give you the benefit of the doubt, asking for forgiveness when a mistake has been made is a pretty good way to go.
How many of us have heard “I’m sorry you feel that way”? Nothing fans your frustration into anger faster than that. Instead, really apologize. Ask them to help you understand the issue, then take steps to reassure them their concern will be addressed.
If the concern is a bigger issue, make the changes, apologize, and promise to give them updates or check in at a time you and the customer set.
When a situation blows up and a company apology is needed, don’t be afraid to do so. Companies want to keep their pride which is perfectly understandable, but often true apologies can do more to instill customer loyalty (and save face) than staying silent.
It’s better than this anyway:
Keep Your Promises
If promises are made to change a product or service, make them. If you promise to check in with a customer about the progress of an issue, do it. If you make promises of change in a PR announcement, keep them.
Alina Wheeler expands on this point from the perspective of brand identity.
“The brand identity is viewed as a strategic business tool and an asset that seizes every opportunity to build awareness, increase recognition, communicate uniqueness and quality, and express a competitive difference. Adherence to brand identity, uniform standards, and the relentless pursuit of quality are business priorities.”
Keeping promises is part of brand management. It will only raise your brand image and your customer’s perception of you.
Listen and Engage
With social customer experience, you can listen to all the conversations around your brand. Know what your customers are saying and monitor for negative and positive feedback.
If negative sentiment spikes suddenly, you will know and be able to address the situation. For example, you can make statements on social and respond to their comments. Nuvi Engage puts all social messages and posts that you’re tagged in into one interface so you don’t need to constantly be checking and responding in your native feeds.
Customers want to hear what you have to say. Though most of what you see may be negative comments or responses, there are those silently watching that want to hear both (or all) sides of the story and may go elsewhere if you don’t respond well or at all. If you need help responding in a way that will reflect positively, write to those quietly watching, not your naysayers.
As you focus on keeping customers’ perception of you positive, they will become loyal to you. When mistakes happen, they will be much more likely to forgive you and stay with you throughout collapses in customer experience.
Learn more about key loyalty behaviors and social customer experience!