Turn a Negative Customer Experience into a Positive One

Why the Customer Experience matters so much to your business:

“We are currently experiencing a heavy volume of calls. Please stay on the line as we reroute an obscene amount of calls to the inappropriate department, leaving most of you on hold even longer than you were initially, and, more often than not, just disconnecting the call the moment you finally reach a human. Nevertheless, please be assured your call is very important to us.”

Bad customer service is everywhere, and while businesses are dropping the calls, customers are dropping their services more and more. American Express conducted a survey a few years ago that identified 78% of consumers who have thrown in the towel during the middle of a transaction due to a poor customer experience. You had their business… and you blew it.

Frankly, we don’t have to dole out many examples of this behavior because everyone reading this probably has a prominent story in their minds of a time when a company or service let them down and the customer service they received either further botched the job or ignored it completely.

How many times have you told people that story?

A study by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs estimates that news of bad customer service will be broadcast to more than twice as many friends, family and strangers on the internet than praise for good customer service will.

Why? Because bad customer service leaves a stinging pain. It can leave you feeling disrespected, ripped off or downright shocked. That emotional stab is going to take time to heal and in the meantime, everyone you know is going to hear about it.

So how does the company that served up the bad experience recover?

Well, it’s going to take some commitment. “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner claims that it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for ONE unresolved negative experience. That certainly takes time and energy. Kind of makes you wish you had been committed to a positive experience for your customers from the beginning, right?

Nevertheless, you may write it off as a one-time incident that can be ignored. Probably not a good idea. Our friends at the White House Office of Consumer Affairs are back to explain that for every customer that takes their own time and energy to complain, there is an estimated 26 other customers that have remained silent. Newell-Legner backs this up by asserting that organizations only hear from about 4% of their dissatisfied customers. The rest just continue to stew silently in their own poor customer service experience…

So, as best we see it, you have two choices as a company (if we all agree that ignoring it is not an option).

How to Turn a Negative Customer Experience into a Positive One:

1. Avoid the situation in the first place or extinguish afterwards with proper customer care.

Okay, so this requires either a time machine or an extensive training session with your customer-facing crew to ensure that poor experiences are avoided in the first place. But the simple fact remains that as important as your business may consider committing the time and resources to finding and making new sales, countless studies have shown that retaining your current customers and diminishing that monthly churn will make you more money in the long run.

Marketing Metrics reports that you have a 5-20% chance of selling to a new customer or prospect, but you have a ground-shaking 60-70% chance of selling to an existing, happy customer.

Small businesses seem to understand this more than large enterprises. Many times the only differentiator between two products is the superior customer experience that surrounds the one and not the other. And that’s enough for customers. In fact, they’ll even pay more for it!

Harris Interactive/Right Now prepared a “Customer Experience Impact Report” that revealed almost 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers would be fine with paying more for a great customer experience. Focus your organization’s resources and direction on making customers happy and the numbers will trend upward. Why? Because people talk.

2. Let feedback empower your business – the good and the bad.

You won’t have to look far to find feedback. These days, most organizations can find a myriad of reviews and comments online that outline the good, and mostly bad, of their business. But even if you don’t have a strong social presence, you’re likely talking to your customers every day through phone calls or emails.

Let each customer experience be a lesson. Use it as a learning curve. Take pride in what earns high praise, but more importantly, take careful inventory of the negative feedback.

Kristin Smaby wrote “Being Human is Good Business” where she explained that customers aren’t just sharing their pain points – they’re actually giving you great business advice (if you’re listening!) All of their issues or questions or ideas should be harvested by your customer service team and efficiently communicated to the rest of your team.

The saying “the customer is always right” can likely be contributed to a customer, but it’s not wrong. A customer exhibits the needs and the characteristics of your target buyer persona, so if they aren’t finding it easy to purchase your product or finding some flaw in your service, that feedback should be held on par with your engineering department’s opinion.

And your actions will be seen by the customer. If they see you taking their advice to heart and feel the connection with your business in reaching a solution, they can now feel invested in your organization.

After all, a McKinsey study found that 70% of buying experiences are influenced by how the customer feels they are being treated. If they know that their opinion is respected and taken into careful consideration, it can turn a negative customer experience into a positive one. Lee Resources studied the same thing and came up with the same number. They report that when you resolve a customer complaint, that customer will do business with you again 70% of the time.

Successful organizations place the customer experience above all else. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t have some interesting encounters along the way.

What happens if you don’t want free ice cream?

At Cliffedge Marketing, one of our most popular promotions with the St. Louis Cardinals took place every Sunday home game at Busch Stadium. Our brand ambassadors join with Prairie Farms to present “Ice Cream Sundays”, a fun experiential marketing promotion that offers fans cold, delicious ice cream for free during the hot summer season.

But, believe it or not, some people don’t always want free ice cream.

Sometimes, we encounter people who “prefer a cherry pop, not ice cream” or are allergic and want to know “why are you handing out the wrong flavors?” Sometimes people will just find a reason to complain. In each of these times, we are presented with an opportunity to provide good, respectable customer service or just turn them away with a “this is how it is” approach.

Take every opportunity to show you care

Our brand ambassadors are trained to kill with kindness and offer any reasonable solution that is possible. In this case, it is often a simple reply can do the trick: “Sorry, this is the only kind that we are able to offer today, but we will look into providing different flavors in the future. Thanks for the feedback.”

But more than just reciting a line, it’s the delivery that can ultimately shape the experience. Our brand ambassadors take the time to make eye contact, hear the issue and really listen to the customer. Whether it’s a complaint or a suggestion, we absorb the feedback and show them the courtesy and respect they deserve, regardless of the situation.

Sometimes, it may not be enough for the customer. In these cases, we encourage our brand ambassadors to “take the conversation offline” which basically means request to continue the conversation at a different time and place. We hand over our business card or take down their name and number and promise a follow up conversation. This keeps us focused on the task at hand, yet gives us another opportunity to win over the difficult customer.

And you’ll often find that, whether it happens in a group setting like this or during a social media exchange, your response is seen by many and can shape their view of you as well. More often than not, our promotion role with Cliffedge Marketing requires making not just the customer happy, but also the general public. What we say and do is often seen by many and that is why we work hard to make each interaction a positive one.

At the end of the day, the only one who benefits from a clash between you and your customers is your competition.

Have a positive or negative customer service experience that impacted your purchasing decision? Share it in our comments!
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