Bill Gates once famously said: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
True or not, many businesses are still reluctant to actively seek out their unhappy customers, let alone learn the reasons behind their unhappiness.
They would no doubt point out that they have a dedicated Customer Service department; ready to deal with any and all customer issues, all they have to do is ask.
The flaw with this approach is that it’s reactive. It relies upon customers having the time and motivation to voice their opinion; then, and only then, will they get a response.
Moving from reactive to proactive
Today, customer expectations are greater than ever, and tolerance for broken processes and bad service lower than ever. So in order to find out whether customers are happy or not, businesses are now sending out surveys.
While surveys provide invaluable customer insight, any business that fails to use them intelligently may regret having used them at all. The customer that has taken the time to give their input, may well feel aggrieved if they don’t receive a personalised follow-up.
Failure to respond to the customer, leaves the sender with nothing but statistics. (Perhaps they hope that by analysing a collection of aggregate results, somehow it will eventually lead to a positive return on their investment?).
These statistics are of little use if the customer in question has already walked with their wallet. So while you need to be proactive in asking for customer feedback, you also have act on the results.
Closed-loop feedback to the rescue
Call centre customer recovery has become a hot topic and first-contact resolution the key.
When a customer gives negative feedback, a closed-loop feedback system will deliver the processes a call centre needs to be responsive and timely, and rescue the ‘at risk customer’.
First we need to define the process.
To start with you will need the technology in the form of a comprehensive Contact Centre Surveys and Insights programme in order to identify at risk customers
Secondly you need a rapid reaction team or a dedicated customer complaints team in order to respond in a fast and timely manner.
Finally, you need the policies in place to determine when to act. So if a customer complains that the colour of the product doesn’t quite match their curtains, the answer is most likely No. On the other hand, if a customer complains that their brand new smartphone has burst into flames the answer is a resounding Yes. (Good luck with that one Samsung).
Does service recovery pay and who pays for it?
This is where it gets sticky, as call centre customer recovery doesn’t come cheap.
Not surprisingly the Insights team wants to do it. But the Operations team isn’t so keen, basically because it will be responsible for implementing it and will want to know who is going to pay for it.
The principals at a call centre will ask: what value does it add? In other words: Can we rescue customers at a sufficient rate, so that the benefit is offset by the cost?
But before making a decision based on the bottom line cost, consider this: there is clear evidence that existing customers are more valuable than new customers and a study by Bain & Company estimates that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one.
One thing is for sure. When properly implemented in a call centre, customer recovery programmes are proven to increase customer insight, empower front-line employees to escalate issues to their team leaders and managers and ultimately save ‘at risk’ customers.
In principal it’s a good idea, in practice it boils down to one simple question: How much are your customers worth to you?