There are many businesses and organisations that strive for 100% customer satisfaction. While the intention that drives this goal is not questioned, the reality or achievability of the goal is.
To have all clients or customers 100% happy 100% of the time is unrealistic and, while well-intentioned, it is generally a strategic bias that keeps higher up decision makers happy. But the decision makers are often far removed from the front line where the majority of enquiries and complaints are directly made.
At the front line, customer service personnel often work with a script and/or software system that can be very cumbersome. In addition, they may not have received sufficient training, or they are under-resourced, or they are not kept up-to-date with recent changes to products or services, or worse, changes to managing complaints. And these are only a few examples of the challenges customer service personnel face every day. At the end of it all, they cop the brunt of dissatisfied customers who are often passed from pillar to post and end up finishing a call none the wiser.
This problem happens across many industries – from manufacturing, white goods, retail, hospitality through to professional services etc. No industry is immune to the dissatisfied customer or client.
The businesses that do well in customer service are those that are genuinely interested in the feedback customers and clients bring and are committed to continuous improvement of not only their products and services, but also the systems and processes that lead to the customer experience far exceeding their expectations. This definitely includes after sales service.
Yet no matter how great your after sales service may be, more than likely you have already encountered the customer or client who has been a ‘nightmare’ to keep happy, and in the end it just wasn’t possible to satisfy them.
And that leads to these two questions:
- Is the customer always right?
- Can you always keep them happy?
This article is not designed to provide detailed solutions to every possible customer complaint scenario, but what I would like to share with you is a snapshot of the four most common types of behaviours that customer service personnel encounter to ensure that handling complaints effectively is as simple a process as possible.
Why? Because the simple answer to the above two questions is: ‘NO!’
Behaviour #1: The people who will buy purely on the results they want from your products and services.
- They will want to know there is a guarantee on the product or service and may be influenced by the results others have gained.
- They will have a specific purpose in mind, will make a decision quickly and if you are able to fit that purpose, they will remain happy, particularly if you are able to fix any problems along the way quickly and directly. If you are not able to act directly but are factual, straight to the point, provide alternatives for them, then they will still be happy.
- They are likely to refer your business to others for your prompt service and ability to problem solve quickly.
- If you are slow to respond or are vague and indecisive they will quickly go elsewhere. This is when they are likely to not be satisfied and therefore with make a complaint or you will just never see them again.
Behaviour #2: The people who will be very specific about why they want your products or services.
- They will want to hear the testimonials of others, particularly the details of how other people found the quality and technical after sales service.
- They are cautious about making a purchase, want to know the facts, be shown demonstrations, and have at least three other options available for comparison so they can make a very informed choice.
- They can be slow to make a final decision. If the other options are not available, then they will shop around for comparisons or are likely to have done their research, so want to know that the information you are providing matches what they have already discovered.
- If your products and services do not deliver on those specifics, they are likely to complain and ask for a refund so they will need someone who is prepared to spend a little time explaining the details and specifics with them before they purchase.
- And when they do complain, they will want someone who is prepared to ask them about the specifics of the problem or they will think they are not being taken seriously. If this level of service is not provided, then they will take the complaint much further.
- With these customers or clients, trust in the product or service is a must, but the same is not necessarily so for the people – they will follow the product rather than the business.
- They are guarded in trusting the people; therefore, your after sales service needs to be spot on and consistent. If you do this and invest in these relationships, then they will become very loyal and long term clients. Break the trust and you will lose them quickly.
Behaviour #3: The people who want you to understand the process of how your products or services will change their situation as easily as possible.
- They will need some time to consider their decision and are very rarely spontaneous in the purchase.
- They want to enjoy the experience and may need a bit of hand holding if the change in product or service is a big step for them.
- If the experience has been personal, friendly and considerate rather than cold and clinical (i.e., where they have not felt forced into a sale), these people will become your most loyal clients and will be your best referrers to their friends and family.
- If there are changes to your service that will affect them directly, take the time to inform them and, where possible, do this personally.
- They do not particularly like change, so if they do make a change away from your products and services, ensure you follow-up because they are the least likely to cause a fuss, but when they are dissatisfied enough they will just move on … that is, unless the complaint has a severe impact on other people who mean a lot to them, then they will make a stand until they are heard.
Behaviour #4: The people who, no matter what you do, how much you bend over backward to help, will never be happy.
- They appear to be happy to start with, but it doesn’t take long before they become your biggest headache, taking up a lot of your time and still they are not satisfied.
- They have lots of excuses or ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ about your products and services. They want to hear testimonials and also want to know the details of the guarantee.
- No matter the extent of your after sales service to please them, blame is always placed on you and external to them. They view their behaviour as perfectly reasonable.
- There will be a definite mismatch of values between you and them and you will never live up to their expectations. They will not appreciate the lengths you go to to help them because they believe it is their ‘right’ to be provided with your service.
- The mismatchers pull you away from your core purpose and before you know it, the change you made to address their problem is not aligned with your business direction, leaving you feeling withdrawn from your values.
- These are the ones who you will need to have other referrals ready for so they can seek the products and services they want elsewhere.
- They will spread negativity about your business, not just a specific product or service, very quickly and not necessarily accurately.
Now, knowing there are different types of customers or clients who will display different behaviours, particularly Behaviour #4, it becomes obvious that a target of 100% customer satisfaction is not realistic. What is more realistic is 100% focus on the best possible solution for both you and your customer or client, which ultimately may mean saying no to a sale.
And, while the best possible solution for your business may be completely different to that of your competitors or other industries, here are four tips that are universal to any customer service system you put in place.
- Provide a good support system for customer service personnel that includes training and coaching in skills such as empathy, listening, collaborative communication (ability to step back and not take complaints personally), flexibility (behavioural and emotional), and product and service knowledge as well as actively seeking feedback from them to improve your customer service strategy.
- Create a customer service strategy that has flexibility: do not use scripts – scripts are robotic and hinder the personal touch that builds relationships with your clients. Instead, develop a personal touch that highlights where high and low touch points are with customers and clients. This helps to increase the availability of your customer service personnel to the high touch points for better customer/client outcomes.
- Always be open to customer feedback: be curious about their experience and do not assume you know what their individual experience will be.
- Be prepared to lose a mismatched customer/client and stand up for your business values. Although there will not be many of these customers or clients, you need to be clear on the line in the sand between addressing genuine concerns and complaints and those that do not align with your businesses’ values.
So, while you may never achieve 100% customer satisfaction, by following these four tips, you WILL maintain 100% focus and commitment to your customer or clients AND your business values.’
And if you would like a helping hand, then contact me…I’m only a conversation away.