How to turn negative customer experiences into positive ones

Positive customer experience is a critical priority for all businesses. It is the foundation for long-term relationships and repeat orders, as well as short-term reviews and online feedback. Indeed, in the digital era, in which social media can quickly translate a negative customer experience into a viral story and a tattered corporate reputation, it has never been so important for organisations in all sectors to ensure their customers enjoy a high-quality and consistent experience.

But no matter how hard your business works to optimise customer experience, some issues are always inevitable. The challenge, then, is how your organisation responds to those issues, and how effectively it is able to turn negative customer experiences into positive ones.

What triggers negative customer experience?

Countless factors can foster negative customer experiences. Clearly, if the initial product or service fails to live up to expectations, then a negative experience is going to be triggered immediately. However, many of the most complex, high-profile or damaging customer experiences end up pertaining to businesses’ ability to deal with what may have begun as a minor issue.

A faulty or incorrect service is unlikely to trigger a truly dreadful customer experience provided the business is able to adjust or resolve it rapidly, and keep the customer informed throughout. On the other hand, if the business in question begins a complex process of quibbling with the customer, or is unable to deal with the issue quickly, then the situation will rapidly escalate.

Then there are more basic issues such as customers being kept on hold for longer than they would like, being passed through multiple different departments before they reach someone who can help, or speaking with agents who do not have all of their account or sales information to hand.

No matter what the business in question, customers always value convenience, ease of contact and transparency from service providers. If these qualities fail to meet expectations, then a negative customer experience is almost certainly going to be triggered.

Going from negative to positive: two key steps

There are two key steps to turning negative experiences into positive ones.

Firstly, you need to rapidly and comprehensively understand the issue in question. As outlined above, myriad different factors can trigger negative customer experiences, so it is impossible to have a blanket, one-size-fits-all approach to mitigating them. Rather, you need an efficient means of identifying them when they take place, and understanding precisely what has gone wrong. This means having effective and timely mechanisms for gathering customer feedback, such as quick and convenient SMS or email-based surveys. At Revive, we work with our customers to develop bespoke surveys which can enable them to delve into broad trends and really understand customer sentiment trends over time.

Secondly, you need to respond to those negative experiences in a proactive and personalised way. This requires up-to-date and comprehensive customer information, well-trained and well-informed agents and, of course, a clear and standardised process for different types of issue resolution, including compensation where necessary. Remembering that transparency and clarity for customers is key, it is just as important for your issue resolution process to be fair and replicable as it is for it to be effective on an individual basis. Customers who feel that those who shout louder are being treated better are unlikely to leave with a favourable impression of your business.

Closing the loop

Ultimately, then, we are discussing a ‘closing the loop’ process, whereby customers who have displayed dissatisfaction are quickly – if not automatically – contacted. At Revive, we often advise our clients to create a specialised customer resolution team, whereby customers who have provided negative feedback through a survey can press a hotkey to be transferred directly through. From there, a customer-focused turnaround process can begin, with the sole purpose of turning those negative experiences into positive ones.

Clearly, businesses should aim for the highest standards of service at all times, but mistakes will always happen. The true measure of a customer-centric business is its ability to respond to the negative customer experiences, not just the compliments.


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