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#5.08: The “Customer Satisfaction” Issue

We all screw up sometimes. Learn to manage mistakes to keep your customers happy.

1> Let Them Vent
2> Fix It First
3> Keep Them Calm
4> Check It Out: Shotgun Weddings

1> Let Them Vent

Your customers have a billion opinions, comments, and questions. Let them get it out of their system before it boils over. Give frustrated customers an outlet to air their grievances. Sure, some of their ideas will be insane, but the important part is taking the time to listen. Offer a toll-free feedback hotline, web pages, and email addresses so your customers can get their comments to you. Aside from making them feel warm and fuzzy, feedback from customers can be an early indication of problems. You can always expect a few complaints no matter what you do — but if the numbers begin to grow, then you have a mess on your hands. Better to have a system that gives you an early warning quietly than a public mess.

THE LESSON: If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. Let your customers tell you how they really feel.

2> Fix It First

Want thrilled customers? Solve problems before customers know that there is a problem. You’re going to have to deal with the situation either way, so you might as well get extra credit for fixing it early. It doesn’t have to be extravagant; it’s the little things that count. Microsoft downloads fixes for their bugs automatically. Garages often send out envelopes when its time for your car inspection. You fill out the form, put your keys inside the envelope, and drop off your car without waiting in line. Intermedia, an email provider, offered free downloads of Microsoft Outlook 2003 to their customers -— before customers knew that a new version was released.

THE LESSON: Nothing makes a customer happier than when you feed a need they weren’t even aware they had.

3> Keep Them Calm

We’re all addicted to radio traffic reports. It doesn’t get you out of a jam, but it sure makes you feel better to know what’s going on. Use the same technique to reduce tension and avoid anger when you’re having service problems. Most cases of customer frustration are caused by a lack of communication. You don’t need to get fancy. Try setting up a blog as an easy way to publish a stream of updates. Use pop-ups on your customer service web page to acknowledge a breaking problem. Change your on-hold message to inform callers that you’re on top of the situation. Once people know that you know that there’s an issue — they’ll calm down and you can focus on fixing it. As a bonus, you won’t waste time and money repeating the same answers to the same questions.

THE LESSON: Acknowledging a problem is 90% of defusing the tensions caused by the problem. People just want to know what’s going on.

4> Check It Out: Shotgun Weddings

It started as a simple listing on eBay for a wedding dress. It was funny. Now it’s a web-wide viral phenomenon. What’s your viral gimmick?


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