From brand detractor to brand ambassador in 6 steps

Everybody agrees that Customer Experience (CX) is critical to the success of an organisation, to the point that, according to Walker, “Customer Experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by the year 2020.”

Certainly, most companies are increasing their efforts in order to provide a positive journey to their consumers, and Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50% of organizations will redirect their investments to customer experience innovations.

But what happens when things go wrong and a customer has a negative experience with your brand?

I recently booked a cab from a local business and as they have been actively promoting their mobile app, I chose that venue for my booking. I needed a cab from the airport, at no point I was asked to input the flight number and in fact there was no option to do so, but nevertheless, I received confirmation of my booking. Imagine my surprise when after landing I discovered that my cab had never been dispatched from their depot. Their reason? I didn’t give them the flight number. When I tried to explain to the customer service assistant that if I could have given it I would have done so, he told me that their system doesn’t record flight numbers but that I should have texted it to them… No other explanation provided, no apologies, no alternative solutions.

At that point it was late evening, I had been travelling all day, and I was certainly not a happy customer.

I requested to talk to the manager and I was reassured that I would have been called in the morning, but that didn’t happen either, despite me calling again the day after.

If things had stopped there they would have certainly lost me as a customer. Not only that, but in my dissatisfaction with the service and with the lack of response from the company, I went online and gave them a resounding 1 star on Google. I elaborated on the problem I encountered and especially on how my impression was that they actually didn’t care about having a customer stranded at the airport due to a fault of their system.

But then things changed drastically.

The evening after, to my surprise I received a call from the owner himself apologising for the error. He acknowledged that their system was at fault and offered a free ride as a way of compensation. But that was not the only thing he did. He genuinely listened to my grievance and when I mentioned that in the process of calling his customer services and waiting for a new cab I lost my scarf, he offered to get one of his drivers to pick it up from the airport for me!

I was so impressed by the commitment of the owner to change my impression of his company that by the end of the call I went back to Google and change my review to 4 stars.

This is my personal experience, but I’m not the only one who has become a brand advocate in response to excellent customer service. In fact, 82% of a LivePerson’s survey declared that getting their issue resolved quickly is the number 1 factor to a great customer experience.

However, for that to happen, there are 6 critical steps that brands need to be ready to take:

  1. Have a system in place to manage customer service.

The latest trend in CX seems to be ‘multimodal customer experience’: the ability to engage and communicate with customers over multiple channels—for example: voice, text, email, social or chat.’. However, the very first step is to actually make sure that at any touch point the customer’s grievance can be addressed. If there is a problem, do your employees know how to address it? Can they quickly assess the situation and fix it, or direct it to the right person in the company? If your Digital Media Marketer receives a complaint on Twitter, does he/she know what to do next?

It is critical that whoever receives the complaint knows how to manage it, in the fastest and most efficient way.

  1. Make your system relevant to your customers

Having a system in place though, is not enough. Companies need to understand their audience and provide their customer care in a way that is relevant to each individual customer. For instance, many companies now have libraries set up with articles or a Q&A that answer the most common issues faced by customers. When a customer reaches out to them, they can easily forward the relevant article with the expectation that the customer finds it useful. What happens though if your customer has already read the relevant articles on their own and is actually looking for a concrete solution? The customer service team must be able to assess the customer and change tactics. Keeping on asking the same questions and sending articles is only going to frustrate the customer more. Different solutions and proper training can help the team to address the problem in a more effective way.

  1. Acknowledge the problem.

This would seem obvious but how many times have you reached out to a company for a complaint and been simply ignored? Either nobody answered your query or you were faced with a cold ‘We are sorry to hear about your experience’ message. Your impression of that company? If already you were not happy with their product or service, now you are certainly not happy with the whole brand overall.

When there is a problem, companies need to acknowledge it (see point 1) and make sure that the grievance is addressed. A simple sorry without action being taken to fix it is simply not enough.

  1. Make their problem your problem

While not all companies can afford to get their CEO to call individual customers, unlike in my case, a disappointed customer expects at the bare minimum level of empathy. Even when the problem cannot be fixed, it is critical that companies make every effort to understand the effects that the problem has on their customers and find alternative solutions that, even if they might not fix the problem in itself, can improve the overall customer experience.

  1. Follow-up and ensure the problem is solved

If a company has managed to follow the first 4 steps, the chances are that their customers had their problem solved or that they left with some kind of alternative solutions. However, it is always a good idea to follow-up after a while to ensure that the problem was properly fixed and that the customer is actually satisfied. Too many times, customers simply stop complaining. Not because they are actually satisfied with the outcome of the customer service, but simply because they feel that the problem is not going to be fixed and that it’s easier to simply switch provider.

A follow-up call is also the opportunity to show that the company genuinely cares about their customers.

  1. Ask for reviews

If it turns out that the problem was actually fixed and that the customer is genuinely satisfied, don’t miss the opportunity to ask for a positive review, either on your website/ social media platforms or on the relevant review platform.

Ultimately, while happy customers might tell nine friends, unhappy customers, on average, tell sixteen. So, it is critical to increase the number of people talking positively about your brand.


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