Kevin Stirtz, an author, trainer, and professional speaker, has said, “Every contact we have with a customer influences whether or not they’ll come back. We have to be great every time or we’ll lose them.” It is the company’s responsibility to create a memorable experience for customers.
However, what should you do if your Customer Experience delivery falls short? No matter how hard you try, you will not be able to make everyone happy. What matters is how you respond to a bad Customer Experience.
What is Customer Experience?
The Customer Experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences people have with your company. It takes into account every aspect of your sales pipeline and sales funnel. A bad Customer Experience can occur at any step in the sales pipeline. In turn, this can heavily disrupt your sales funnel.
However, bad customer experiences happen. No matter how engaged, well-trained, and positive your team is, nobody is perfect (including customers). Your customers may be having a bad day, or have had problems with a similar service or product in the past. There might have been an issue with your courier service, or a misunderstanding of what services you offer.
To have customer retention and gain loyalty, you need to navigate bad customer experiences well. Let’s take a look at five tips for doing so. Follow these steps, and more customers will walk away with a positive impression of your business.
#1: Look to Your Employees
Your employees are at the frontlines when it comes to Customer Experience. From project management to call centers, they interact with your customers on each part of their journey. Since they deal with customers the most, they’re the ones who navigate most negative customer experiences.
Happy Team = Happy Customers
Support your customer service team and give them the tools and freedom to fix bad experiences themselves. You need to foster great employee engagement within your company. Engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above average productivity. Those who feel more engaged in their work are more satisfied, more present, and more likely to advocate for your business.
Giving employees more agency to make decisions when it comes to customer service leads to better outcomes. Your employees will feel like they have a purpose in their positions and will lead to more tailored solutions. Customers will appreciate the expediency of the solution and the personalized way it was delivered.
Also, check-in with your team to determine their job satisfaction. A disgruntled employee does not lend itself to amazing CX solutions. Ask your employees if they’re happy with your company, and if not, what would help? A team that feels happy to come to work will work harder for you. They will be more prepared for upset customers and more likely to provide better CX solutions.
Regularly check in with your customer service team to gain insight into both good and bad customer experiences. If you haven’t already, it’s worth researching what’s the best free conference call service for your company. This will help keep your company connected so you can brainstorm solutions to Customer Experience problems.
What is a conference call meeting? Or what should it be? Ideally, it’s the same as any other business meeting, just remote. Different branches and departments can communicate with each other seamlessly. This way you can get a holistic view of your company’s Customer Experience issues. Just remember: not everything needs to be a meeting. Use them for the most important things, and you’ll ensure your team pay full attention.
#2: Live By The HARP Method
This is an acronym that will help you and your team manage bad customer experiences. HARP stands for Hear, Acknowledge/Apologize, Remedy, and Prevent. Using an acronym will make this method easy to remember. This will ensure your team is on the same page.
Listen to customer complaints, no matter how unreasonable. Sometimes customers just want you to hear them. Ask them questions and be genuine in your interaction. Show them empathy and that you take them seriously. Try not to let customers leave the interaction without actively listening to their concerns.
Have a system in place to monitor online reviews so you can respond to negative ones immediately. You may not be immediately made aware of a bad customer experience. If you find there’s a particular point of breakdown in communication, take steps to resolve it.
Sometimes both will be needed, other times only one. You should always acknowledge a customer’s concerns, but you may not always need to apologize. Reflect, validate, and empathize with your customer. Make sure they are aware that you have heard them.
Have your team make a judgment call on a case by case basis. Also, remember that in Customer Experience, a personal touch goes a long way. Find some way to personalize your acknowledgment. Everyone knows when they get a standard email that automatically gets sent out when a complaint is made. Do something that makes them aware that, to you, they matter.
Offer your customers something to remedy their bad experience. Ideally, this should include fixing what caused the issue. It is also good to offer something additional for their trouble. However, it is good to set reasonable limits to these remedies.
Give your team the freedom to make decisions based on the situation. By offering a range of solutions, your team will know their limits while still having agency in their position as customer advocates.
If a customer complaint is valid, take the opportunity to make changes. The best thing you can do to fix a bad Customer Experience is to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
You can do this methodically to determine the best solution. Look at the area of your business where the bad Customer Experience occurred. Then, investigate if your business is following the best ERP for retail. For example, if the problem occurred because of an inventory problem, investigate ERP software that forecasts future demands. This may avoid any problems in the future.
#3: Own Your Mistakes
Competitive Customer Experience needs to be authentic and transparent. Everyone makes mistakes. The thing that makes a difference is whether you deny or hide them.
Make sure you pick up the phone and talk directly to your affected customers. Even remote teams can do this due to innovations like Voice over IP. What is Voice over IP? VoIP is a technology that lets you make phone calls through the internet, instead of a landline. All you need is a broadband connection.
However, it may be difficult to commit to a VoIP service that costs money. Especially if you are not sure if that solution will work best for your company. So, is there a free VoIP service? Yes, there is. You can use services like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google Duo and Hangouts for free.
Making calls directly to customers can give a personal touch when addressing concerns. It also helps avoid miscommunication. In your call, make sure to be personal, helpful, and considerate. It may be good to ask if your customer would prefer another form of contact (such as email), as you do not want to make the customer feel pressured to interact.
However, if you can communicate effectively with your customer, you will be able to reach a more immediate solution. Being able to solve a problem through a short phone call will leave both you and your customers happy with the interaction.
Part of fixing the bad experience is about being transparent with the customer about what went wrong. Customers appreciate when companies take ownership of the problem. It validates their bad experience, and illustrates your willingness to make changes.
When owning your mistake, do not wait. By being proactive and engaged, you will create a brand that aspires to be loved. You can create a brand that centers around the customer experience. One that dedicates itself to being authentic and transparent. By obtaining a reputation for excellent Customer Experience will make customers love your brand.
#4: Publicize Customer Experience Changes
Don’t just let the individual customer know about the steps you have taken to prevent further bad experiences. Let everyone know the positive changes you are making within your company. You may not know of every instance a problem caused a negative Customer Experience. By advertising the changes, you let customers know that you’ve seen the problems and have taken steps to fix it.
In this way, you can use the customer journey to create an engaging marketing strategy. Knowing how a customer navigates through their experience will give you ways to promote changes.
Take what you know from your customer’s experiences, make adjustments, and then include that in your marketing strategy. It will turn a bad experience into a positive way to engage with your wider audience.
You can also use it to gain further data on customer experiences. Interact with your customers on social media and customer forums to evaluate your performance. You need to make sure that your Customer Experience has improved.
When making changes consider using headless commerce to optimize the customer experience. Headless commerce separates the frontend and backend of an ecommerce application. This means changes can be employed faster and offers greater flexibility for you. This will lead to the overall quicker mobilization of changes you make to deliver better customer service.
Make sure you use each bad Customer Experience to reflect on every aspect of your Customer Experience strategy. The experience isn’t about the transaction or the conversion. It is about all the little moments before and after. Reflect on the small moments where things went wrong and view trends. There may be similar complaints that go unnoticed because they seem small. Investigating trends will make sure you are making the right changes.
If you see any trends in negative customer experiences, take it to your team. Use the time as a training opportunity to investigate what could have been done better. Video calls can be effective in this case. But you may wonder, “how can I do a video call?” All you need is an internet connection, a device with a microphone and camera, and a video calling app.
Reflect on the entire step of the customer journey to review how your team handled the bad CX. Ask the following things:
- When were we notified of the problem?
- When did we respond?
- Could we have done anything better during the interaction?
- How do we feel about the quality of the remedy? Was it appropriate?
Don’t criticize your staff. Instead, use it as a way to proactively better your customer service team. Also, check to make sure any CX solutions that were set are working for your company. Then make sure your team is satisfied with the marketing efforts publicizing the changes.
71% of organizations listed Customer Experience as a competitive differentiator. However, having an excellent Customer Experience isn’t about being perfect. It is about making sure you are present, authentic, transparent, and pleasant when dealing with a bad Customer Experience.
Use your employees as a resource. Make sure they feel like they have agency within your position. And remember, the Customer Experience begins with an engaged workforce. Engaged employees will work hard to provide an excellent experience. Train your team to succeed while giving them the freedom to make proactive decisions on customer service.
Use the HARP method and teach it to your employees. Hear, acknowledge/apologize, remedy, and prevent after each bad Customer Experience. It is easy to remember and simple to deliver. It will provide your customer service with a sense of consistency. It will also give your team the confidence to respond immediately to the problem.
Make sure to make solutions a part of your Customer Experience strategy. Allow for “wow” moments even in interactions that begin negatively. Companies that deliver excellent customer service are aware that you do not have to be perfect. Just be willing to make each interaction, negative or positive, easy, meaningful, and enjoyable.
Richard Conn – RingCentral US
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and the RingCentral phone system.
He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as Cincopa and Rightinbox.