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Customer feedback is one of the most important tools at your disposal. It’s an opportunity to get real people’s responses to your services, your brand and your products. It’s a free, open forum for your customers to speak their minds – and whether positive or negative, customer feedback is a huge asset.
Great comments leave you feeling good and work as testimonials. But how is negative feedback an asset you ask? Easy – it shows you what your problems are. If you can fix them, you become better. Sometimes, the most scathing and upsetting customer responses can be the perfect motivator to get it together. Sure, the truth hurts, but it always prevails. Having worked in customer facing roles at organisations both big and small, in store, over the phone and online, I have seen a wide variety of attitudes towards dealing with feedback but the ones I remember are the ones felt first hand or by people I know.
Here we are in merry old 2013, the age of being connected to everything. We can leave a review for a restaurant while we’re still sat at the table with a cup of coffee. We can tweet about the service at a shoe shop after we walk out in our new moccasins. Social channels are now the most obvious and immediate way of getting through and getting heard – customer facing businesses need to understand that this is serious stuff that can (and eventually will) affect how you trade. Social media fails are not a case of “any press is good press”- rather, a social media fail is a colossal loss of face.
As Laura wrote in her post, social media is an extremely effective customer service channel (possibly the most relevant and important channel today), but it can be more than that. Social Media can become the mobile soapbox of death for your company and brand image. All it takes is one piece of negative feedback that gets ignored and is allowed to spiral. But here’s the thing; social is very much “in the moment” and casual. Other means of customer feedback are carried out with true intent and purpose. Some need to be actively encouraged, all need to be monitored. Oh and don’t forget – when you get feedback, TAKE ACTION!
Are you using these? Brilliant – but your customers probably aren’t. Okay, so you enter everyone who fills your feedback form into a prize draw to win a holiday, £1,000 or a car etc. Most of us never win those and most of your customers know it. Plus, they don’t really want to spend 10 minutes clicking radio buttons and filling in text boxes asking a whole load of “N/A” questions.
Personally, I love giving feedback – especially on feedback channels! If a feedback process is too long or difficult, I’ll find another way but we the users shouldn’t have to. If you really care about it you should provide a dedicated email address, a phone number and a postal address for feedback. Use surveys and forms but make them short and easy; stop trying to quantify a person’s experience and feelings, let them tell you in their own words. Offer something they really want or need in return, because you really want and need their point of view.
When you offer entry into a prize draw, you don’t really offer anything but a one in a million chance of winning a prize. When you invest in your feedback, you invest in your business and your customers. If you know what they really care about and want to change, that investment is really going to pay off.
We have all been the difficult customer at some point. We roll into a shop 5 minutes before closing time. We send email after email, asking a string of questions. We complain about service. We want something the service can’t provide. The list goes on – but while we’re all guilty of it, we seem to forget that we are completely and utterly entitled to it.
Remember that customers don’t owe you their custom. Let them be difficult and learn from them; find out why you can’t deliver to that vocal customer. Nine times out of ten, they’re just saying what everyone else is thinking.
This boils down to my reason for writing this post – I recently spoke to my friend about his experience as a “difficult” customer. And I was pretty amazed at how he was treated.
He’d bought a table from an online furniture retailer (that shall not be named) with ridiculously low prices. The catch? They use a bizarre e-cheque payment method. They don’t explain it on their site. They also don’t like people asking about it. So my confused friend sent an email asking how it works and how long the process will take.
The (slow) response makes nothing clear, so he asked again. The response this time was a short-fused, rude and insulting email that went along the lines of “let me spell this out for you”, followed by an all-capital barrage of text shouting. Taken aback, my friend replied expressing his shock.
But all he got in return was another blunt email, telling him to take his money back and go away if he doesn’t like it.
Can you see where they went wrong?
In the end, the table arrived. But my friend won’t be buying from them again. Neither will everyone we know. This isn’t a big name, large organisation that might survive a public image beating. This is a small business that needs every win it can get. Why would they risk picking a fight with a customer? Why would they refuse business? A customer isn’t a rival, they pay the bills – that gets forgotten so often in so many businesses.
Isn’t it time we all had an attitude check?
Human interaction isn’t that hard and most of us know how to be nice and polite. When you provide a product or service and something goes wrong for a customer, they’re probably going to blame you – you can expect frustration and anger to come into play. No matter what channel they come through, be it email, social or on the phone, treat them like a customer. Treat them like the backbone of your business.
Okay, there’s a limit to how much anger you should take – by no means am I suggesting that you become a doormat or form of therapy for someone who just wants to have a pop. Just be as informative and helpful as you can. Keep an accurate record of everything. Be diplomatic and fair. If the other side loses their cool, don’t take it personally, just try to put the fire out – don’t fan the flames! If it does get personal, make a polite, swift exit.
If you lose a customer, know that you did everything you could – remove the possibility that you’re just bad at doing business. I guess criticism comes in a lot of forms, but when you’re criticised, be thankful for it – it can be painful, but it might be one of the best things you learn about yourself and your business.
Positive feedback on a post it by BigStock
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