Retain Customers through Proactive Customer Experience

There is nothing worse than a bad customer experience. Customers are constantly voicing their displeasure with bad experiences, not only through their voice but with their wallets. More and more customers are leaving companies because of poor customer experiences. According to PWC, 32% of customers will stop doing business with a brand they love after one bad experience, and 78% of consumers fail to become customers due to a bad experience.

This stat is scary for businesses. It is extremely difficult to guarantee every customer will have a good experience. What can be done, however, is ensuring your company is able to recognize bad experiences and resolve them.

Take my recent experience with Alaska Airlines as an example. I had a quick flight from Portland to Seattle which is a leg Alaska operates almost every hour. My flight was scheduled to leave at 7:45 am, I was at my gate by 6:45 am. Unfortunately, my flight was delayed until 9 am; however, there was a 7 am flight to Seattle that was in the process of boarding. I requested to be put on the earlier flight but was refused because I bought the cheapest ticket possible ($25 difference). The flight was less than half full and regardless of how much money I offered to pay, they would not put me on the flight. The gate agents told me they did not have permission.

Oddly enough, when I looked at my mobile ticket the gate agent actually had put me on the earlier flight but by the time I made this realization, the plane had departed. I walked around the airport looking for a gate agent, but the gates were either empty or the lines incredibly long, so I called Alaska about my problem and they were able to put me back on my original flight. My flight finally departed at 9:45 am, 2 hours after it was originally scheduled.

The final chapter in my story was two days later when I received a survey asking how my experience was. I replied with one sentence, “If you would like to know how my experience was, please refer to the conversation I had with your gate agent and customer service representative.”

Now, this was not a terrible experience, but it was a failed opportunity for a company to make my experience better. There were plenty of seats on the earlier flight and the only reason they wouldn’t put me on the earlier flight was because of a business rule that someone put in place. Someone at Alaska Airlines knew I had a less than ideal experience, and I guarantee I am not the first to run into this business rule. I am sure it is in place for a reason; however, in my case, it did not make any sense.

I understand that it’s impossible for companies to provide a perfect experience for every customer, but what is possible is being proactive and making it right with customers who have a less than satisfactory experience.

In my situation, I would have much rather preferred communication acknowledging the poor experience I had and an effort to make it right, either by addressing the business rule or offering some related promotion/discount, instead of a survey. I do not know what Alaska’s business model is, but I guarantee they can come up with a better response than a 10-page survey.

Many companies believe it is impossible to reach out to every customer who has a poor experience, but I disagree. With analytical technology like Topbox, listening and identifying the customers who have a bad experience is more attainable than ever.

More than seven years ago, Fred Reichheld and his team at Bain & Company created the closed-loop process – the process of reaching out to customers based on their NPS survey score. The concept of closing the loop is fantastic, yet few companies today execute it and even fewer companies reach out when a customer doesn’t complete a survey.

I believe the closed-loop process can be expedited and become even more proactive. A customer does not need to complete a survey in order for your company to make it right. I guarantee your company has thousands maybe even millions of customers communicating with you about their poor experiences and most of them are probably very similar. Identifying the root cause of their friction and responding before they have a chance to churn is the last chance to retain a customer.

Responding to customers regarding their issues does not need to be complex. Starting with a simple email acknowledging their problem and how/when it will be resolved can go a long way. If you notice 10,000 customers contacting you with web-based issues, send them an email letting them know that you appreciate their input and are addressing the web problems. Once they are fixed, reach back out and notify the customer of the repair.

Take it one step beyond a generic email by being specific about the problem the customer brought to your attention so it feels personal and shows that you are listening. Make the communication feel like an actual conversation – not something from an automated process. Customers communicate with your company because they want to be heard. Ignoring them or sending them a generic response is not communication, it is the opposite.

Your customers are going to have a bad experience with your brand at some point. It is impossible to be perfect; however, there are plenty of ways to ensure your customers know that you are listening and working so those bad experiences don’t happen again. Showing empathy and being proactive can be a simple business process that prevents customer churn.

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