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Tag Archive for customer feedback

Customer Service Gone Wrong

What You Need to Avoid

 

 

Why does negative news spread so much faster than positive?

Because we all love a good story! But when it happens to you, it’s not so funny.

People love reading about bad customer service stories. They go viral because we’ve all been there – on the phone desperately needing help from customer service, or waiting in an endless line at the airport.

When you read about a bad customer experience, you feel empathy (and maybe some outrage) on behalf of the wronged party. It’s maddening when companies disregard the same customers they’re meant to serve, and it’s a near-universal experience.

Check out these five horribly bad customer service examples and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Walmart’s Pricing Blunder

You walk into your local Walmart and see a Lego set you want to buy for your son. You notice that the item at the store costs 35% more than the same exact Lego set on Walmart’s own website. What? Yes really. That’s exactly what happened to Clark Howard. But when he asked the team to meet their company’s online price, Walmart refused to price-match.

So he pulled up his phone and ordered the product online for an in-store pick-up. Howard says, “My son and I stood there and watched as a different employee came a few minutes later, picked the item up off the shelf, and brought it back to the holding spot for pickup.” Because Howard didn’t receive the email confirmation from Walmart.com until the following day, he couldn’t bring the item home that day. Instead, Howard had to go back to the store the next day — inconvenient, to say the least. Although Walmart doesn’t require that store managers match online prices, it would have been the best (and only) response in this scenario.

Takeaway

When companies prioritize a policy above the needs of customers, it shows. If you’re not sure how to respond in a scenario, think about what’s the kindest, most honest thing to do. This can easily prevent really bad customer service stories from happening on your watch.

2. Comcast’s New Low

There are lots of reasons not to like cable providers. You always have to argue for a fair rate, and most of the time, you don’t get what you need. But even in this not-so-helpful industry, Comcast is America’s most hated company.

In 2015, when Lisa Brown called to cancel the cable TV portion of her service, she was transferred to a retention specialist specifically trained to talk her out of it. She didn’t back down, though. Much to her surprise and agitation, the next service bill she received was addressed not to her husband, Ricardo Brown, but to “Asshole Brown.”

Just days after Brown’s story went viral, three more customers of the TV cable provider came forward reporting their names had been changed to derogatory words. Although Comcast leaders apologized to the customers and offered a two year refund, the incident still made waves. Because customers hate Comcast’s pricing model, and so many people can relate to the frustration, the story resonated with millions.

Takeaway

This bad customer service example typifies a work culture where employees are so fed up, they’re willing to sacrifice their jobs to make a point, and get a laugh. The best way to cultivate an empathetic customer service team is to treat the team with empathy, too. This sense of shared appreciation and respect will naturally extend to customers.

 

 

3. Target’s Trolling Incident

Not too long ago Target announced that they were changing how girls and boys items were advertised in their stores. In an attempt to create a more supportive and open environment for children, Target removed gender-based signs in some of their kids’ sections. Although a lot of people appreciated the change, some customers saw it as a move away from tradition for the sake of “political correctness” and commented on Target’s Facebook page.

Soon after, a Facebook user pretended to be Target’s help desk and trolled these unhappy customers. The Facebook user changed their name to “Ask For Help” and used the Target bullseye as their profile picture. They wrote snarky replies which did not bode well with the already livid customers. The perception was that Target didn’t care about their views.

Takeaway

As customer service expands into social media, there’s an increased risk for fake accounts that enrage (rather than delight) customers. Vigilance is the key to preventing a bad customer service example at your business. Always keep an eye on social media accounts. Although it can be difficult to stop these scenarios from happening, the quicker you shut them down, the better.

4. United’s Big Goof Up

United Airlines’ first big goof up happened in 2008 when United employees recklessly damaged the guitar of musician David Carroll. Sitting in his airplane seat, Carroll saw employees throwing around his guitar on the tarmac, powerless to protect his property. Like any concerned customer, Carroll went through the proper channels to report both the behavior and subsequent damage. “I notified three employees, who showed complete indifference toward me,” says Carroll.

The customer service experience was so appalling, it inspired Carroll to write and record a song called “United Breaks Guitars.” This musical rendering of his bad customer experience has been on YouTube for eight years, and it’s received over 17 million views! Employee indifference to the company’s mistakes ballooned into a PR nightmare for United.

Takeaway

Don’t you remember the Golden Rule? Treat others how you want to be treated. Empathy is the key to building a successful customer service team. If employees don’t care about the mistakes their company makes — and how they affect individuals — they’re not going to be invested in positive change.

Practice empathy with customers by asking more questions and mirroring their answers. No matter how difficult the situation, they’ll feel heard.

5. Gasp’s Retail Gaffe

Have you ever been in a shop and gotten snubbed by the staff? When Keara O’Neil went to an Australian clothing store called Gasp looking for bridesmaids dresses, the salesperson was pushy and mean, implying O’Neil didn’t have good enough taste to appreciate the company’s dresses.

O’Neil followed up with management over email who ferociously defended the salesperson. The Age reported, “In an email, the retailer asked her to do Gasp a favor, stop wasting the store’s time and shop elsewhere because she was not a ‘fashion forward consumer’ who could appreciate a ‘retail superstar’ with ‘unparalleled ability’.” The salesperson also called O’Neil unrepeatable names in a leaked internal email and and warned other “rude and obnoxious clowns” to stay out.

Gasp thought that this incident was a good thing because of the press the company received, but research indicates otherwise: a horrible customer experience can trigger a negative spiral of bad customer service that perpetuates indefinitely.

Takeaway

The adage “all press is good press” doesn’t apply to customer service — going viral for terrible service isn’t worth the momentary traffic boost. When you try to justify your (or your company’s) behavior, you excuse toxic behavior and set a new baseline for bad customer service.

The Bottom Line: Always Put your Customers First

 

Unfortunately every person has a terrible customer service story to tell. Even when it’s not as dramatic or extreme, customers experience terrible service every day, and it slowly erodes a company’s reputation.

The best way to tackle bad customer service stories is to prevent them in the first place. When you create a supportive environment grounded in respect and customer appreciation, you’ll never find yourself among these negative examples.

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How to Successfully Implement Customer Feedback Surveys

Few people get excited about taking a survey. Unless your customers instantly see why it’s important or you offer a reward, they’re likely to dismiss it. However, your company needs those responses. They help you help your customers. If you understand what motivates potential respondents, you’ll be more than equipped to get the survey results you need.

Make the Survey Experience Amazing for Every Customer

Reciprocity, rewards, and interest can each motivate your customers to complete your survey. The more specific you can make each customer’s survey experience, the more interesting they’ll find it—and the more likely they’ll be to respond.

 

Reciprocity: Create an Exchange

In 1974, sociologist Phillip Kunz at Brigham Young University sent out handwritten Christmas cards to 600 strangers. His theory: if someone does something for you, you’ll return the favor. Kunz’s study worked. He received more than 200 replies from people, many of whom also sent their Christmas card with handwritten notes. That’s why it didn’t matter that Kunz’s subjects didn’t know him: their empathy kicked in once they received something, and they felt compelled to give something back.

The same logic—of reciprocating when you’re given something—can be applied to timing your surveys.

Here are some examples of great times to survey your customers:

  • After they’ve been onboarded. Once you’ve given them a tutorial on how to use a core part of your product, survey them on whether it was helpful.
  • When they’ve just made a purchase. Your customer has just worked their way through your site to make a purchase, so ask them what they’d like to see while it’s fresh in their minds.
  • A few weeks after their purchase. By now customers have used the product and will have honest feedback. Offer them a discount on future purchases in return for feedback.

 

Rewards: Entice Them with a Promise

Via the incentive theory of motivation, positive incentives like “money, rewards, or recognition” motivate people to take action. But most people tend to prefer rewards sooner than later. Even if your customers understand that responding to a survey will help them down the line, they’d prefer to have a small reward for sacrificing their time here and now.

Your customers’ positive incentive needs to arrive ASAP—otherwise they won’t feel the urge to complete your survey. That’s why it’s imperative that you promise rewards to customers who take your survey.

Say you’ve just programmed this survey to pop up (above). This proves to your customer that they’ll be rewarded right now for doing you the favor of completing a survey—playing into their present bias and motivation via positive incentives.

Some reward options:

  • Discount on their next purchase – If you have the financial means, this can help grow your survey response rates.
  • Exclusive savings – Provide extra bonus content for your survey participants that isn’t already available.

It’s also crucial to give customers multiple ways to access and complete a survey. With more options, customers will be able to complete a survey on their own terms. Customers will be more likely to complete a survey if there is a way to do it that is convenient for them, whether it is by phone, email, or SMS.

 

Pique Your Users’ Interest

A study published in Oxford’s Public Opinion Quarterly tested the Leverage-Salience Theory of Survey Participation. The theory measured what factors made people more likely to take a survey—whether they found the topic interesting, if they trusted the organization surveying them, or if they would gain specific positive outcomes.

Their findings revealed something intuitive—that people are more likely to respond to surveys when they find the topics interesting. So to get people interested in your survey, you need to make it specific to each customer’s experience. To make your survey prompts and questions as specific and as immediately relevant as they can be, analyze each customer’s experience in real time.

 

Phrase your survey prompts around each customer’s experience. In an analysis of one million surveys, Price Intelligently found that using customer-centric language spiked their response rates. So instead of saying “help us make our product better,” make subtle changes to prompt your users by saying “improve your product experience.”

By using these tips and tricks, you should see an increase in your survey participation. And this feedback is crucial to a successful future for your business.

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Why Monitor A Problem If You Don’t Fix It?

 

Every time I see a LifeLock commercial, I think about our mystery shopping and customer feedback programs. There is one line that stands out:

“I’m not a security guard. I’m a security monitor. I only notify people if there’s a robbery…”

And their tag line: Why monitor a problem if you’re not going to fix it?

Sometimes companies will start a mystery shopping or customer feedback program with the best of intentions – they are excited about designing a program that will monitor and measure the customer experience, either from an operational or subjective perspective.

And then the first results come in, and key staff read every word, share with their employees, and wait expectantly for the next one. Then the program runs for a while, and…

Now what?

There have been times when a client’s program seems to take a turn – all of a sudden the overall performance scores are lower, or a particular location seems to have consistent complaints of slow service, incorrect orders, or some other issue. If it’s not improving, it’s time to figure out why.

There have been times where clients will admit they realize there’s an issue but haven’t directly addressed it for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they’re understaffed, or not sure how to handle the issue, or, they’re not really doing much with the data they’re getting. In that case, they are a lot like the security monitor noted above – they are alerted to an issue, but are not actively doing anything about it.

Below are some examples of ways customer experience data may not be used effectively, and some ways to overcome these challenges.

 

“Oh, we use the data. Every time a low score comes in the staff get in big trouble.” When I hear this, I want to cry a little. This is the absolute WORST way to deal with lower than anticipated performance on a mystery shop, especially if you are only focusing on the weaker performing evaluations. A consistent pattern of low performance signals something to dive deeper into for sure. By consistently using analytical reporting portals, you will be able to identify these areas for improvement and action. By only singling out the poor scores, you are setting staff up for failure. You are also setting the tone that any customer experience measurement is “the enemy” and this will leave a staff that has no interest in hearing the feedback or wanting to improve.

Instead, take a different approach: instead of calling out the staff for a poor score, celebrate the good ones. Call out the staff for the best shops or surveys in month’s period. For the weaker evaluations, compile enough data to pinpoint the issue(s) and create an action plan to make it better.

 

“We are supposed to have meetings on a monthly basis to discuss the data, but business has gotten really busy lately, so…” Sometimes it takes a village, but often there could be one point person who is solely responsible for aggregating the data from all customer measurement programs and provide regular reporting to key staff.

It is important to have regular meetings to discuss company wide issues as time allows, but that doesn’t mean nothing should be done in the meantime. Assign a point person who is responsible for distributing individual evaluations or feedback surveys, but also for looking at the back end analytics and providing key metric reports so that managers have a place to work from to make improvements.

 

“I know District Manager A is on top of the program for his/her stores. I asked District Manager B about the program, and he/she said they may have seen some shops come in but hasn’t really looked closely.” When staff are not on board with a program, they may tend to not take it as seriously. The fact is, whether you like it or not, the program will go on, so you may as well make use of it. If you are in a position to oversee District Managers, for example, talk with them on a regular basis and give them some guidance on how to best use the data. Remind key staff that it’s less about the individual results and more about the aggregated data across all programs. Show them how they can make improvements in customer experience that will directly affect customer experience, increased sales, and better overall performance for their stores.

 

“I saw the surveys coming in last night and noticed that several customers were requesting contact. Sounds like it was a bad night.” Yikes. Thanks to technology, managers can be alerted to issues in almost real time, and sometimes taking quick action can alleviate an issue from snowballing into something bigger. I recall a customer feedback program in which text alerts would be sent if a customer requested contact from a manager. One evening, the alerts were coming in fairly quickly in quick succession. On closer inspection, the majority were for one location, and, in reading through the surveys, it appeared that the restaurant’s drive thru was experiencing a wait long enough to cause customers to leave mid-line and in the restaurant, the dining area was not maintained and significantly slow service was being reported.

In this instance, in a perfect world, a manager could do a quick check in with the store as the feedback is coming in to see what quick fixes can be put into place. Then, as soon as possible following the shift, talk with the store manager in future detail to learn more about the issue and create an action plan to ensure it doesn’t happen again or, if it does happen again, what to do to resolve it as quickly as possible.

 

Data is valuable, and not using it can be detrimental. Hindsight is 20/20; don’t be the one to look back and think, “If only we had paid attention to the data coming in….” Take advantage of your monitoring programs and act when needed – your customers will thank you.

 

 

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