You’d think that saving customers and protecting your company’s reputation would be more important than rigid adherence to cookie-cutter scripts and standard policies. They may promise efficiency but ignore special situations. But for many companies, management is so happy to have written policies and procedures that handle the majority of situations, they and their people can simply apply them to every situation, including those that are not only inappropriate, by down right detrimental to their customer retention.
You would do better to starts out with the premise that your customers judge you not by how well you do when things are right, but by how well you do when things are not. They have paid for your product or service but can’t get full use out of it because of something you or your contractors did or did not do. Every day that they go unsatisfied results in more hard feelings, untill finally, they become negative and irate.
This is not the time to tell them to wait their turn or put them through long delays on their way to resolution. This is the time to triage your incoming calls or visits to your customer care center. Determine who has critical issues that prevent them from effectively using your products and services and work with them first. Why? Because they are the most likely to hurt your reputation. You will not only lose them, but they will tell others and you will lose their friends and acquaintances as well.
On the other hand, if you identify those customers that require immediate assistance and make resolution of their issues a priority, just the opposite will happen. The satisfied customers will feel compelled to validate their patronage of your products and services by telling all their contacts how they were treated when they had a problem.
So why don’t more companies recognize this obvious human behavior? Poorly oriented employees easily grasp the cookie cutter approach and use it to “resolve” all complaints because it provides “no-thinking” security and reduces their personal responsibility. Many employees look for ways to make their jobs more routine, thus virtually eliminating their challenges. In addition, upper management never hears about the negative effects of this kind of blanket processing, so they are content to continue using this process.
But the process may only proven to be efficient from a the company’s customer service department’s standpoint, not from the customer’s perspective. Without the triage early in the communication, all customers are handled the same, regardless of the urgency of their complaint and the implications to the company’s, product’s and brand’s reputation.
The same executives that condon the all-complaints-handled-equally policy will spend large sums on commercial advertising and marketing to get new customers, all the while overlooking a gold mine in customer retention, reputation building, and advocacy readily available to them through their complaining customers.
If the customer is calling with a complaint regarding a fix your people have previously offered that did not work, move those folks to the front of the line. Deal with your customers who return with the same complaint first. Don’t make a customer wait in line when they have a second request for resolution. Similarily give top priority to any customer that is prevented from using your product due to your company’s lax quality control.
Don’t exacerbate a negative situation with heartless cut-and-paste procedures that telegraph that you don’t care about your customer’s needs. Use the opportunity to build customer loyalty and advocacy by resolving your customer’s concerns quickly and efficiently.
Who We Are
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.
Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.
They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.
Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.
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