Lesson 1, Topic 1
In Progress

1.8. Communicate responses in a manner that fits the situation

ryanrori January 28, 2021

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To deliver an outstanding experience, you must proactively interact with customers. Answering potential questions before they ask, providing them with information before they need it, and personalising communications based on previous interactions are all examples of proactive, exceptional customer service.

By using customer knowledge correctly, you can proactively interact with customers in an intelligent, compelling manner. Once you begin to anticipate customers’ needs and pre-empt problems, their satisfaction levels will rise, loyalty will increase, and you’ll see fewer customers defecting.

With access to information about a customer’s previous interactions with a company, frontline employees can provide personalised assistance, demonstrate that they understand the customer’s needs and preferences, and save customers from having to repeat themselves. They’ll also be able to appropriately address any problems that may occur during the course of each customer’s interactions with your company.

Give constructive feedback when interacting with customers

It’s amazing how simply giving feedback can lead to many successful endeavours. People are often intimidated by the thought of giving direct, constructive feedback, yet this is essential for successful work relationships.”

When it comes to feedback and customers, we often think about it the other way around – receiving feedback from customers. Just like your employees and work partners, what your customers do and think will have an impact on your business. 

In their book Office Practice, authors Neeltje Du Plessis and Mariette Dreyer explain “some complaints or queries are routine and can be solved in a few minutes. However, there are times when it will take longer to gather enough information or to refer it to the correct person. If this happens, customers must be kept informed of progress made. A customer should receive feedback on progress once a week until the complaint is resolved.”

A good company will proactively seek feedback by contacting customers and listening and responding to their comments; by analysing feedback for product/ service improvements, market trends and opportunities; and using this information to develop a plan of action. Unfortunately, most companies rarely solicit feedback, so it’s up to the customer to initiate contact, and more often than not, this contact is the result of a problem.

Although the offer of feedback is always appreciated by a company, the manner in which the feedback is crafted can sometimes be destructive rather than constructive. At the same time, the manner in which a vendor chooses to respond to feedback can ultimately benefit or damage its reputation. Constructive feedback is a valuable tool, while destructive feedback is simply critical. It behoves both sides to work constructively together to reach a resolution to the issue.

Responding to feedback

In today’s crowded and competitive scientific landscape, customer service is often just as important as the quality of a vendor’s product or service. So, whether a customer is called upon to share his or her experience with a company or its product, or volunteers the information, he or she should be taken seriously and answered with the utmost professionalism. 

When feedback is handled properly, the customer’s overall experience can be improved or strengthened, increasing the chances that he or she will continue to purchase from the vendor or recommend the vendor’s products or services to other potential customers. Give constructive feedback when interacting with customers.  The company can also apply the experience toward uncovering underlying root causes and making improvements for future customers.

On the other hand, when the situation is mishandled, the customer’s experience can go from bad to much, much worse. An adverse experience, especially in an era of social media and instant communication, has the potential to resonate far and wide. It’s no longer simply a matter of the vendor losing the business of one unhappy customer; if that customer is motivated to take action, news of the experience could spread, damaging the company’s reputation within its core markets.

Bad Example: Lucky Cup claims no liability for personal property damage due to carelessly poured coffee.

Better Example: Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We’re sorry to hear that your notebook and notes were destroyed. We are currently investigating this matter internally and, if necessary, will contact you for additional information. While we cannot send you a free Lucky Cup coffee maker as requested, we hope that you will accept a free replacement carafe and a R15 coupon for our Mountain Roast ground coffee as a token of our regret.

Feedback analysis

In addition to the immediate actions of responding to and resolving individual customer comments, an analysis of all feedback over time can highlight trends for process, product or service improvements, or even avenues for providing additional value to customers. This analysis can be compiled internally or by specialised external firms, and an overview with recommendations to management ensures that everyone is aware of any actions to be implemented.

In the aforementioned Lucky Cup coffeemaker scenario, the problem may have been a single manufacturing defect, a change in the manufacturing process or even careless handling by the operator. With such isolated feedback, it’s nearly impossible to determine why the carafe broke; but when this feedback is compiled with information from other customers, potential causes can be eliminated or confirmed.

With analysis in hand, the company is tasked with weighing improvements and additional valuations against feasibility. Additionally, the analyses can be used proactively to shape new products and new features for existing products.

Customer feedback is an important piece in the understanding of a customer’s experience. Customers who share their experiences with a vendor receive direct improvements where necessary and feasible, and also benefit in the long run from the resulting improvements to that company’s products.

At the same time, the demonstration that a customer’s feedback is valuable to a vendor, and the improvement of a negative situation, can ultimately lead to a positive customer experience. Without receiving feedback, it’s hard for a company to anticipate improvements and react to changing market demands.