We’re now up to the last of the Five Principles of CX (you can find an introduction to this series here, and parts one, two, three, and four at these links), Every Customer Elite. This may sound like the usual boilerplate feel-goodery that comes with CX leaders and writers all the time: Put the Customers first! Make every Customer experience perfect! Always and everywhere at every time and in every instance do whatever it takes to completely and totally amaze the Customer! Put your Customers at the center of your operations! (Wait, what is it? Put them first? Or put them at the center?) It goes on and on…
But this principle applies mostly to those of us in the Customer service or Customer support arena. There are applications along the entire Customer journey, but mainly this principle is reserved for those Customers we’ve already failed. Now, it may not be a huge fail…like a true recovery event. It may simply be that they tried to accomplish something online and need assistance. Their widget needn’t have broken and they’re looking for a neck to wring for this principle to apply either.
I’d referred earlier to a process engineer who used to work for me who characterized all CS calls that came into our organization as an “us-caused” problem. Whatever reason someone is calling into a contact center (or looking online for a solution or using an interactive chat agent, or however they’re contacting us), it’s either because our product or service failed them, or we somehow put something in front of them that wasn’t intuitive and/or easy to use, didn’t work the way they wanted or expected, or otherwise isn’t ideal for them. Either way, they need our help.
That’s where the elite treatment should come in. Your Customers will interact with your brand an uncountable number of times and you’ll never know it (unless, of course, you’re tracking it!) because they’re gliding through your processes without ever needing to contact you on their own. That means that for the overwhelming proportion of your Customers and the associated interactions, all is good in the world. That’s why, if you think of it, those who actually have to reach out to you are an elite group. Elite not only in numbers, but also in the value they bring by highlighting elements of your processes that interact with them (and guess who else…all those people who do end up successfully navigating them on their own) negatively so you know what to do to improve everybody’s experience.
You should be treating these folks like the gold they are. If they’re dealing with your recovery process, Customers should have concierge service, no exceptions.
First, you owe it to them. As I mentioned in Principle 3, Take on the Stress, your Customers have chosen you to play a part in their lives. What they haven’t chosen is to take on all the stress of your own internal processes. The price of them trusting your brand is you treating them properly. And you treat them properly by humbly admitting that, however straightforward the system may seem to you (keep in mind, you do this for a living; the Customer does not), or how easily you can place an order online or navigate your own website, you’ve somehow built your systems (or products) in a way that isn’t anticipating properly the needs of your Customers. Showing that humility by treating your Customers who are tripped up by your problems with respect and some hand-holding is just the sort of thing that leads to long-lasting and mutually trusting relationships.
Secondly, that trust and loyalty can be multiple times stronger than the original negative experience a Customer has had if you handle it right. Want to know how to turn your NPS detractors into promoters? This is a huge vehicle for that. You can even relate to it yourself, no? If something about a company’s website or service or product is not fulfilling to you as a Customer yourself, imagine the difference you’ll feel if, after them having helped you solve your issue, the original feelings of frustration and confusion are replaced by a sense of value and that they have gratitude that you’re their Customer. That turns “their products are lousy and so is their service” into “well, they need to work a bit on their quality, but they were eager to get me back up and running and did so very quickly, while valuing my experience.”
Third—I’ve said this before, and you process engineers will appreciate this most, I think—this sort of feedback is gold for you. If your Customers are collectively (or even individually here and there) simply stewing at a low boil over a few of your processes that are merely mildly aggravating or otherwise stick in their craw, you may never know about it and over time you’ll wonder why loyalty is flagging and they’re migrating to your competitors (who, perhaps, have figured it out). That’s why detractors on your NPS survey are so incredibly valuable! These folks who are complaining should be treated like warriors coming home from the hunt. Learning from them exactly how and why and where and at what point in your processes they’re having trouble will do a lot of the work of walking in your Customers’ shoes. Prize their insights if for no other reason than the selfishness of learning about your processes from their perspective. Prize them for this insight. They’ll appreciate it, and if you’re doing it right, you’ll be the better for it.
Be grateful for your Customers who are having trouble with your systems and processes. Dismissing or disregarding them and their experiences will ultimately make a bad situation worse. They may leave because your processes are a pain in the neck and your systems unnavigable or in some way worse than those of your competitor; or they may leave because in their time of need they felt abandoned and lost trust and faith in your relationship. Either way, though, they’ll be gone.