One of the best ways to leave a positive memory with a customer is the manner in which unusual opportunities that present themselves are handled. Whilst this is the riskiest time for a customer, as on the flip side the relationship could be damaged permanently, there are key things that organisations and their leaders can put in place that will lessen the impact of issues and increase the chance of the customer taking away a positive memory. This is achieved primarily by removing the conflict mindset. Why is it that customer service and managing conflict seem to always go together? If the right staff are employed and trained into a customer-focused culture there would never be conflict between customers and staff. That is an ideal-world scenario, but leaders should take a lesson from this, remove conflict management from their mindset and replace it with customer recovery. Recovery involves doing something that turns an interaction around. This sounds a lot nicer than managing conflict emotions, doesn’t it? The following three points will explore this in greater detail.
1. Know the impact on customers
Firstly, organisations and their teams need to understand the potential impact of a product or service failure to each of their customers. Whilst all customers are equal, by drawing a severity scale and ranking the impact on each customer, leaders will be able to determine the level of importance and appropriate way to recover their customers and leave a surprising memory by going the extra mile in the event something doesn’t go to plan. In a previous blog post I referred to business class and first class passengers. If a flight was delayed by two hours, what would be the impact to business class passengers versus economy class passengers? Business class passengers may miss a very important meeting — yet they fly regularly so may understand that this is out of the ordinary. An economy class passenger might miss the departure of a tour and because this holiday has been planned for years they may be impacted more than the business class passenger would be. What is the impact on your customers if things don’t go to plan?
2. Identify proactive opportunities
If customer service is ingrained in the attitudes of staff members from the time they join an organisation, it should be activated all of the time. When something goes wrong for the customer, being proactive in the situation is the first step that will avoid conflict. Exceptional customer service comes from organisations and their staff who are constantly on the lookout to approach a customer first when something goes wrong, rather than waiting for the customer to approach them. This is known as being proactive; however, it is vitally important when approaching a customer to approach them with a solution. On the topic of airlines, have you ever received a flight delay and revised departure update via text message hours before you are due to leave for the airport? This is an example of an airline notifying you of a problem and presenting you with an immediate solution. The solution may not have been what the customer was expecting, but at least the organisation demonstrated that they were thinking ahead and respected the customer’s time. Are there moments like this in your organisation that you can plan ahead to minimise the impact to your customers?
3. Know reactive opportunities
Proactive recovery in the previous point is always preferable. But what about when you employ staff in static roles where they can only connect with the customer in front of them at that time. These are the staff that will be approached by customers directly when something doesn’t go to plan. It does not necessarily have to be conflict, but can turn into conflict very quickly if not dealt with correctly. Being able to immediately turn something around for the customer when they ask is an example of being reactive. A good example would be when a customer purchases a notebook computer and then brings it back into the store the following day as it has stopped working. Do your staff have the ability to react to a customer to turn the situation around immediately and leave them with a positive memory?
Now that the concept of recovery has been explained, next week’s blog post will focus on how organisations can empower all of their staff members to instantaneously recover customers in order to create positive memories.
Chris Smoje is a customer service speaker, trainer, facilitator and founder of the DIME™ Customer Service approach. Chris works with organisations and their people to develop a common interest and excitement about delivering exceptional customer service results: www.dimecustomerservice.com