When Service Goes South

I read a story this week about a restaurant customer who posted a negative review on Yelp which the owner of the restaurant then responded to (Woman Leaves Bad Online Review, The Owner Finds Out And Responds).

It’s a ‘he said, she said’ situation so one can’t make judgements on who was right here. Handled correctly in the beginning though I doubt it would have escalated to the point where the customer felt the need to tell the world about their experience.

It highlights the need for companies to have risk mitigation strategies for when it looks like a customer service situation could degenerate. You’re never going to be able to please everybody so put processes in place to deal with dissatisfied customers (or even in the case of the restaurant mentioned above, prospects).

Businesses already plan for multiple contingencies so why shouldn’t that extend to their customer service areas? With the prevalence of social media, your customers are now broadcasters. Their empowerment has magnified the risk to you of a social backlash. And we’ve all seen the damage that’s been done to brands by dissatisfied customers who took to social media and then went viral.

According to a new survey from American Express, 60 percent of respondents were likely to share bad experiences of a company with others. And they tell nearly three times as many people as they do about good experiences! 50 percent of respondents used company websites to share their experiences, 49 percent did so via text messaging, 47 percent did so through social media, and 46 percent used consumer review websites.

Had a process been in place at the above restaurant where as soon as it looked like the interaction was heading south the owner of the restaurant would be brought in, I think the situation could have been neutralised.

Know Your Customers

A great way to mitigate the risk of a poor service interaction is to know as much about your customers as you can. Things like:

  • Why do they buy from you?
  • What has their experience of you been like in the past?
  • What feedback have they provided?
  • How often do they buy from you?
  • Would they recommend you?
  • How influential are they on social media?

The more you understand about your customers, the better off you’ll be. This applies not just in a crisis but always. So integrate the disparate systems you use to collect information about your customers. Your customer view needs to be timely, accurate and complete.

How much do you know about your customers? And if a customer interaction went bad today, how would you deal with it?


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