Everyone knows the benefits of a satisfied customer, but few business owners stop to consider the potential value of the not-so-happy. Here, Tom Dickerson explains how you can use unhappy customers to better your business.
Unhappy customers are signposts to where things are not working well across your organisation and if you listen closely, they can save you time, money, and even help you acquire and retain new customers.
Disgruntled customers are seen as a problem rather than as an opportunity because businesses typically don’t know how to gather customer feedback in a useful manner in order to measure performance and improve their product or service. Here’s an example: a seemingly sensible, common sense decision to exchange an in-the-box instruction manual for an electronic device with a downloadable version seems like a no-brainer. The lower cost of production, shipping weight and better environmental outcome all favour the move.
But if this change results in a high volume of basic, low value “how do I?” or “where is my manual?” queries to your contact centre, the rise in operational costs to service those calls reverses the original production cost savings and will immediately show that the decision may have been a bad one. Not only will it also increase customer frustration in the short term, it could mean customers will be less likely to make a repeat purchase down the track.
Implementation of technologies such as social media monitoring mean that complaints can be identified before the company would be otherwise aware of them. Using the above example, a company could recognise a problem ahead of time through an increase in posts on influential product forums. This would allow the company to make customer-informed changes or provide the forum community with explanations well before the issue escalates.
Speech analytics is another technology that can also be used at the coalface in your contact centre to monitor customer sentiment. These systems analyse the customer’s tone of voice and reveal which keywords or phrases are trending to provide real-time visibility of potential issues. By the nature of their role, the customer service representatives taking calls will have a good feel for what’s an abnormal trend as opposed to business-as-usual. The capturing of trends should be technology enabled and the high level results of the anecdotal feedback should be data driven.
Providing insights on the business impact of operational change is just one of the many benefits of capturing data from your unhappy customers. This information can be used to drive down costs and create significant value. However, like any form of feedback, there is one important consideration – the business must be prepared to listen to what the customers are telling them and act on those insights. Taking action often requires stakeholder engagement across the organisation to trace the root cause of the issue and remedy the problem. This might sound simple; however getting people in other departments to change their processes can be a challenge.
An internal business case is a good tool to use and would include the impact that the issue is having on the customer experience and the potential for cost savings as a result of the change. Preventing the issue from occurring in the first place will not only prevent the associated complaint, but also reduce the cost to serve the customer. Quantifying the benefit as a cost saving serves as a universal language between departments and often helps get priority among competing initiatives.
Focusing your efforts by using the contact centre to identify issues and thus reduce low value interaction should be a key initiative in any organisation’s strategic plan. The real value of unhappy customers is not just addressing their concerns to turn them around; it’s recognising the signposts to product or process issues in your organisation that hold the key to reducing the cost to serve and optimising customer retention.
Tom Dickerson is Business Consultant, Salmat Customer Engagement Solutions.
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