We’re in an era of digital disruption and customers expect you to earn their loyalty, over and over again. If you can’t, or won’t provide a great customer experience, they’re more likely to complain or simply take their money elsewhere. Customers are more informed, more empowered, and they seek an affinity with brands—not just products and services.
People vote with their wallets and gravitate towards companies that deliver what they want. Often what people want is more choice, better value-for-money, convenience, customisation, or dependability. Increasingly, they also expect an emotional connection and shared values.
Meeting changing customer expectations isn’t easy. However, companies who scale their approach to do so will be more competitive in the long-term.
Senior executives that truly want to shape their organisation’s strategic direction must gain control of the operational and people management processes that underpin a positive customer experience. In large and highly regulated industries where commoditisation is a threat, how you manage unhappy customers is particularly important.
Empowered consumers aren’t afraid to express themselves
As consumers have learnt to wield their spending power to demand more from companies, their perception of what constitutes good value and good service has changed considerably.
Research by Salesforce, based on surveys of more than 6,700 customers and business buyers globally, found that 67% of customers say their standards for good experiences are higher than ever.
More than half of the respondents said that most companies fall short of their expectations. That’s a likely cause of many complaints. But more significantly—57% of survey respondents said they’d switched to a competitor for a better experience.
That’s a big problem because customer churn means lost revenue and increased costs associated with acquiring and onboarding new customers. Lost business can be exacerbated by a hit to your reputation—given that 62% of customers said they’d share bad experiences with others.
It’s clear that customers are in control of their spend and willing to shop around. Consequently, even people looking for the lowest cost option are highly attuned to how businesses make them feel.
Traditional competitive drivers like price and variety pale in importance if a customer feels neglected, annoyed, disrespected, misinformed, or misaligned with your company’s purpose.
Managing complaints is an opportunity to build trust
Customer complaints are a clear indicator that there’s a disconnection between your brand promise, customer expectations, and the actual experience of your customers.
A recent consumer survey found complaints are on the rise and that most of those who complained weren’t satisfied with the result.
The increase is attributed to both growing consumer expectations and the expanding number of communication channels available for people to express criticism—such as email, websites, chat bots and social media. Many companies haven’t mastered these omnichannel interactions—55% of those who made complaints via social media had expected the company to use social platforms to follow-up.
Complaints aren’t good, but at least you’re hearing about the issue. Too often, customers leave or cancel without saying why (at a significant cost to your company). Wouldn’t you prefer that customers gave you a chance to repair the relationship?
A customer with a complaint is a customer that can still be retained. If you act quickly, show empathy, and solve problems where possible, it’s also an opportunity to enhance the relationship and create a more loyal customer.
A study shared in Harvard Business Review found that complaining customers on Twitter who received a response to their tweet from a brand’s customer service representative said they were more likely to choose the brand and be willing to pay more in future. This effect held true regardless of whether the customer was offered a resolution. The effect was amplified by the speed of the response—customers were willing to pay a higher premium when a brand responded within five minutes.
The study’s authors’ write, “A mere acknowledgement of the customer’s problem can defuse initial frustration and put the customer back on the road to loyalty. Instead of the customer seeing the company as the enemy, a sympathetic response can reorient the situation so that the customer now feels that the company is on his or her side.”
How to improve the way you manage unhappy customers
In industries being disrupted by more nimble competitors, or struggling to differentiate due to increased commoditisation, your business can stand apart by delivering interactions that make humans feel good.
Being able to know what people want, engage and inform them quickly across every channel, and harness data to create nuanced experiences are all essential.
Your ability to effectively manage complaints means investing in back end processes and systems that enable your employees to handle complaints in ways that customers want. That requires a focus on:
- Creating connected journeys, purpose-driven engagement based on earlier interactions and seamless workflow transitions between different communication channels.
- Personalisation, which includes treating people as individuals, understanding their needs and empathising, tailoring responses and personalising offers.
- Continual innovation, by offering new products and services and embracing revolutionary technologies.
- Protecting your customer’s data and channel preference and responsibly managing and using their personal information.
- Empowering employees with the right tools to service customers’ expectations.
Great communication systems make it easier
An excellent customer experience is underpinned by a strong communication strategy, so the systems you implement for employees to handle customer communications need to be scalable, comprehensive and sophisticated.
Holistic and digitised customer communications management (CCM) helps streamline and improve how you engage across all of your inbound and outbound channels. For example, it could enable your business to:
- Create inbound approaches that minimise or eliminate the frustration that customers may experience, such as self-service portals that allow customers to find their own solutions without fuss.
- Engage customers through their channel of choice and keep track of previous interactions, document and data to ensure faster service and smooth handovers. Customers hate repeating themselves!
- Better handling of intense periods of customer service demand, such as the increase in enquiries that many financial services companies experienced during the pandemic in relation to super draw-down or mortgage deferrals.
- Create two-way exchanges with customers that help you understand and address knowledge/systematic/technical challenges that give rise to complaints.
The right processes and technology can transform how you manage complaints and establish a reserve of trust and goodwill that reduces customer dissatisfaction in the first place.
Immediate responses to complaints are made easier because modern CCM systems provide a high-level view of the customer and enable teams to develop communications quicker with features such as web-based onboarding applications, automation of business rules, structured approval workflows, standardised templates, and mobility.
Day to day, a CCM system that supports your company in interacting with customers with greater clarity, precision, and regularity creates a positive association with your brand. Providing the right tools to handle digital transformation mean less manual effort for your team. Fostering a genuine rapport with customers ensures that when complaints do arise, you can readily respond and your customers will be more forgiving. Furthermore, employees are likely to remain engaged when learning new skills that equip them to focus on more meaningful tasks that support a great customer experience.