Customer Experience Featured Article

Turning the Customer Experience Around

March 10, 2015

Many companies today are in a state of denial about the quality of the customer experience they provide. In fact, the situation would be comical if it wasn’t so dire: a 10-year-old study by Bain and Company found that while 80 percent of companies are confident that they deliver a superior customer experience, only about eight percent of their customers – one tenth – believe that is true. As it turns out, companies are starting to believe their own marketing mottoes, and this is a mistake.

Despite the billions that have been spent on efforts to improve the quality of the customer experience, most companies haven’t made much headway. It may be because companies are spending their budgets on the wrong things. (Just a tip: paying a management consultant millions isn’t going to help the state of your customer experience.)

Consultant and self-described “Connection Coach” Jonathan Sprinkles recently told Forbes’ Cheryl Conner that the Internet has been a powerful revenge tool for customers who have been handed less-than-stellar experiences with a company. Customers today put a lot of weight on the opinions of their peers, and there is no impetus to verify whether those opinions are valid. Some have called the concept “the Reputation Economy.”

“An opinion becomes ‘valid’ just because it is posted,” said Sprinkles. “It doesn’t have to be ‘right’. So little ol’ me with my opinion and keyboard has the ability to affect your income. I can possibly affect you losing your license. I can even influence when you get to retire.”

For this reason, it’s absolutely critical that companies listen to their customers. Chances are good that before a customer begins complaining to a few hundreds friends online, he or she has expressed displeasure with your company, whether it’s in a complaint email, a post on your Facebook (News - Alert) page or in person with an agent.

“People only complain about what they care about,” Sprinkles told Conner. “If they’re telling you about it, it’s important to them. In that respect, negative feedback is a gift, as the individual is giving you the chance to know about their experience, to take it somewhere, and to fix it.”

Sprinkles recommends a five-step approach to fixing the customer experience by gathering, examining and owning negative feedback. It goes something like this: show appreciation to the customer for telling you about his or her experience; acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake; apologize for upsetting the customer; act on remedying the situation, and finally accept accountability and work on ensuring that the situation never happens again.

For companies seeking to keep customer complaints low in the first place, studies have found that one of the greatest determinants in whether a customer experience is good or bad is a competent customer support representative. This answer far outpaces all others, such as personalization, friendliness and other factors assumed to be responsible. Ensure you have enough agents on busy customer support channels, ensure they are adequately trained and well suited for the job, and make sure they have real tools with which to fix customers’ problems. Only then can you turn a dire customer experience situation around. 

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