Offering great customer experiences when things go wrong

| by Clare Evans
Offering great customer experiences when things go wrong

The customer is always right. Or so they say.

Ever since the early days of retailing, brands have always had to keep their customers happy. Because a happy customer is a customer that spends, time and time again.

Good brand experiences are what keep customers coming back for more and bad experiences can take a lifetime to erase. And at a time when customers are increasingly fickle about where they shop — and one bad brand experience can go viral — customer service and negative experiences are a retailers’ biggest hurdle.

Customer-focused customer service

In days gone by, brands could expect a letter, telephone call, or face-to-face confrontation with a disgruntled customer when something wasn’t up to scratch with the level of service received in store.

Fast forward to 2014 however and, more often than not, customers who feel hard done by are venting their frustration through online reviews, forums and social media sites.

And research has shown that customers actually prefer this kind of contact. Business Wire studied over 700 customers and found that 53 percent of those aged between 18-34 would prefer to make a customer service query via text or social media than over the phone.

This is perhaps unsurprising to anyone who has tried to reach a brand via their customer service line in the past. Many of those surveyed said that they had spent at least an hour on hold to a company previously.

Customers crave immediacy, especially when something has gone wrong; 72 percent of those who complain on Twitter expect their complaints to be answered within one hour.

Real-time responses are becoming a growing concern for retailers. Leaving a customer feeling like they need to complain is one thing, but not meeting their expectations when it comes to dealing with these concerns can make the problem worse.

The plethora of public platforms that allow customers to vent their frustrations has opened a proverbial can of worms that can leave retailers vulnerable. That is, unless they know how to successful jump over the hurdles.

Here are three ways retailers can offer a great customer service experience, even when things go wrong:

1. Keep an eye on (and respond to) social media

When a customer complains via social media, one of the worst things you can do is ignore or even delete the comment.

Brands and retailers should be constantly keeping an eye on their @Mentions on Twitter as well as any brand mentions that don’t include your handle. The same goes for all other social channels; keep an eye on any time your company is mentioned online.

If you see a comment — either positive or negative — make sure you respond to it promptly. It’s also a good idea, where appropriate, to take customer service conversations offline. Ask for an email address where you can contact a customer or send them a private message to get their phone number.

This will not only stop the social buzz there and then, but it will also show that there are real people behind a brand who are ready and willing to help.

2. Keep it personal

We’ve all seen them, and most of us have probably been on the receiving end of them: a canned, auto-response message when we send a customer service email or tweet.

When something has gone wrong, little is more frustrating than receiving an instant response that means nothing to a customer's individual complaint.

Instead, brands and retailers should take the time to invest in a customer service/social media team that responds to each individual query. Simply addressing the customer by name, apologizing and explaining how you will deal with their issue can work wonders.

If you can’t solve their issue, explaining why and when to expect a response can really help you jump the customer service hurdle. Treating each customer — and each issue — individually shows how much they matter to you, and can help deliver a positive brand experience that will encourage them to shop with you again in the future.

3. Learn from your mistakes

One of the reasons brands and retailers keep tripping up at the customer service hurdle is that they fail to learn from their mistakes. For example: if a large number of customers have complained about the quality of a certain item of clothing, you should be seeking to eradicate the problem as a whole.

Brands that bury their heads in the proverbial sand only open themselves up to more and more complaints and a negative retail experience. Instead, you should be taking steps to learn from all your mistakes and move forward.

You should also make a conscious effort to inform your customers of these errors. By being open and honest with customers, brands will find themselves building stronger relationships and seeing customers returning time and time again.

Navigating the world of customer service is always a challenge for retailers, but it can be managed quickly and efficiently. Here are our top tips:

  • Make sure you have dedicated members of staff that are trained to handle queries across all platforms
  • Respond to any comment quickly and professionally, even on weekends and out of hours
  • Have specific guidelines in place for customer service and make sure they are adhered to
  • Don’t give in to trolls and negative comments; keep calm, polite and professional at all times
  • Remember: the customer is always right (even when they’re not!)

(Photo by Melissa O′Donohue.)

Topics: Consumer Behavior, Customer Service, Employee Training, Social Media

Clare Evans
Clare Evans is the Marketing Executive for Green Room; one of the UK’s leading retail design agencies specialising in store design, retail strategy and experiential design. wwwView Clare Evans's profile on LinkedIn

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