What wins customers back after a customer experience failure?

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Jun 02, 2015
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Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from MarketingCharts, a Watershed Publishing publication providing up-to-the-minute data and research to marketers.

According to a global survey from cloud-based content software provider SDL, consumers most often ascribe their "worst" customer experience (CX) failures to the post-sale support of the customer journey stage. Long waits/poor response times (35 percent), "unempowered" employees (31 percent) and poorly trained employees (30 percent) were the most commonly cited reasons for CX failures. So can customers be re-engaged?

Apparently, the desire is there, as 82 percent of customers experiencing a "worst CX" said they are interested in fixing the problem. But the survey also finds that only about one in five customers experiencing a "worst CX" event will consider doing business with the company again.

The study finds that customers who had returned to a company post-failure were most likely to attribute that to:

  • The company owning the failure and admitting its mistakes (29 percent share);
  • Receiving a genuine, personalized apology (22 percent); and
  • The company giving discounts, credits, rebates on products/services where the failure was experienced (21 percent).

Customer experience failures

The survey also found disparities between what customers said they wanted to fix and what actually worked. Some 30 percent of returning customers said they want to see their experience help the brand to change; only eight percent admit that this actually worked. Also, 19 percent of returning customers said they want compensation for future purchases; only nine percent admit that this actually worked.

Interestingly, Millennials are much less willing to resolve a failure than Boomers. Twenty-seven percent of Millennials said they were not interested compared to just 13 percent of Boomers.

The survey of 2,784 consumers across nine countries was conducted from January through March, 2015.

What are your recommendations for winning back customers after a customer service failure? What common reparation responses do you think often fall short or go too far?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Some sort of price allowance on a future purchase (if not a refund on the "problem" purchase, if the goods aren’t returned) is a tangible acknowledgement of fault, as well as an incentive to try the store or service provider again. Simply apologizing or issuing a "mea culpa" message isn’t enough."
"Own up to the failure. Apologize. Ask how to make things right. Make things right. It’s not that hard, yet many retailers have trouble doing this, resulting in lost customers and negative word of mouth."
"Showing genuine concern for the consumer is a great start. I find that to be far too rare of an occurrence in my personal experience. Also, looking at company policy and addressing what the consumer wants and seeing if it truly hurts the organization to give them what they want. Just make them happy if they are reasonable."

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16 Comments on "What wins customers back after a customer experience failure?"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Some sort of price allowance on a future purchase (if not a refund on the “problem” purchase, if the goods aren’t returned) is a tangible acknowledgement of fault, as well as an incentive to try the store or service provider again. Simply apologizing or issuing a “mea culpa” message isn’t enough.

Companies’ willingness to take this step seems to be in direct proportion to their market power. Don’t expect much compensation from a company holding a market monopoly, such as a utility or cable provider! But most retailers are fighting for market share, and need to behave accordingly when they mess up the customer experience.

Max Goldberg
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Own up to the failure. Apologize. Ask how to make things right. Make things right. It’s not that hard, yet many retailers have trouble doing this, resulting in lost customers and negative word of mouth.

Dave Wendland
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Today’s retailers can ill-afford losing customers to poor customer service (there are far too many options available that could quickly grab your disillusioned shopper and it will cost five to seven times more to replace her!)

My advice is simple: respond responsibly. Owning up to the issue and not only making it right, but also offering a discount reward or some other valued customer gift is appropriate.

Mistakes are not bad — they are an ideal opportunity to learn, grow and provide even better service in the future.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Showing genuine concern for the consumer is a great start. I find that to be far too rare of an occurrence in my personal experience. Also, looking at company policy and addressing what the consumer wants and seeing if it truly hurts the organization to give them what they want. Just make them happy if they are reasonable.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
4 years 6 months ago
Admitting there was a problem and genuinely seeking to remedy it regardless of who was at fault. The remedy can include an equivalent exchange, money back, etc. The biggest failure I see is the speed at which the remedy is offered and concluded. Customers want it fixed now. They have already invested time and effort pre- or post-purchase and just want it taken care of. My most recent bad customer experience was entirely my fault. I order some logoed shirts from Land’s End and when they arrived I realized that I had ordered them in the wrong material. In a conversation a few days later with Land’s End about changes needed to make our logo work on some hats, I mentioned the shirt issue. Immediately the representative said to send them back for full credit. I said some of them had been washed so they could be worn. She said they didn’t care — send them back. I thanked her, had the shirts packed and shipped and ordered replacements in the correct fabric. That’s what correcting… Read more »
Mel Kleiman
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

First and foremost is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands that the purpose of dealing with a bad customer experience is not just to solve the immediate problem but to make sure you solve the problem in a way so that the customer will come back.

This starts with setting clear expectations, training and empowerment of employees to not only solve the current problem but to do what it takes to make sure the customer returns.

Shep Hyken
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

The goal is not just to fix the problem. The goal is to regain the customer’s confidence. We teach a simple five step process to deal with any customer complaints or issues:

  1. Acknowledge the problem/complaint.
  2. Apologize.
  3. Fix it or discuss what will happen next to get the problem/complaint resolved or fixed.
  4. Do it all with the right attitude: positive, one of ownership, etc.
  5. Do it fast. Urgency shows you care.

For the businesses that like to give things away for free, many times that is just a band aid. The goal is to get the customer back in the door. The credit toward a future visit helps.

Lee Peterson
Guest
4 years 6 months ago
A lot can be learned from the best. I was in Starbucks today with my daughter and her order took forever because they had to brew a new batch of blonde to fill it (they were extremely packed). When she received her order, she got a $4 gift certificate to boot. She walked out with a smile. The reason I bring this up is to show that being preemptive about a potential situation is always the best tact. That takes training, though, and more than that, permission by upper management to allow that employee to diffuse the situation on the spot. You won’t be in damage control if you just put yourself in the customer’s shoes for a minute AND if your boss allows you the opportunity to fix the issue at will. Having said that, if a customer is legitimately (operative term) upset — the research is right — they’re probably not coming back. But you still have to make powerful amends, like the Starbucks person did preemptively — for, if nothing else, word of… Read more »
Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

While first impressions are the foundation of success, you never get a second chance to make a second impression.

Winning back customers is a chance to recreate a brand impression all over again, only it’s harder the second time around. Once trust is violated in the eyes of the beholder, the next customer experience must be all about personalizing the experience and addressing what the consumer deems most important.

There are five keys. An interaction must be:

  • Authentic
  • Sincere
  • Personal
  • Customer-focused
  • Problem resolution-focused

The most challenging aspect of winning back customers is that it typically involves people, not “reparations.” That requires quality staff who are genuinely interested in customers.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Acknowledgement of a service failure is the starting point, but just saying “We’re sorry” is not enough. Brands need to punctuate their admission with some form of tangible reward or recognition to let the customer know that it really matters to them.

There is a certain customer “ennui” with big business that fuels the belief that customer service never really improves, it just limps along at a mediocre pace. For that reason, I believe that a consistent approach to improving customer service is needed if brand image is to improve.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Interesting and timely post. Last evening my wife and I had a “worst” or close to it at a chain restaurant that we have frequented before. The meal was uneatable. Simple enough, we had cheeseburgers and a side. My side was not even tolerable—so bad I did not want it on the plate. The cheeseburgers were overcooked on what looked and tasted like yesterday’s bread.

We ate what we could. The waiter could tell we were dissatisfied. He sent the manager to us. She made us feel heard and important. She did all of the above in taking ownership, apologizing and “eating” the check. Had she taken another attitude the chances are we would never return; and by now, would have told many of our friends. She turned a bad experience in to one where our voices and concerns were heard. She understood what a customer experience is supposed to be.

Dennis Armbruster
Guest
Dennis Armbruster
4 years 6 months ago
LoyaltyOne just completed a study with Verde Group and The Wharton School on dysfunctional retail touchpoints that are associated with unhappy customer experiences. Some numbers from the research, which involved a March 2015 survey of 2,500 U.S. consumers, should be of vital interest to retailers concerned about winning back shoppers after customer service failures. The study shows that more than eight in ten customers with a negative experience never bother contacting the retailer. Sixty percent said it wasn’t worth the trouble and 40% said it wouldn’t do any good if they did. However, among shoppers who reached out to retailers to have their problem resolved, 84% were less likely to be at risk of not returning to the store, and are much more likely to recommend the retailer to others. The study sheds light on which customer service failures retailers should invest in and fix. For this, retailers need two key pieces of data: 1) who is experiencing which problem, and 2) the magnitude of the impact on customer loyalty. Importantly, the research showed that… Read more »
Ed Gilstrap
Guest
Ed Gilstrap
4 years 6 months ago

My experience with brick and mortar retailers is pretty good. When I look someone in the eye and tell them something, we can usually come to an agreement. At large, cyber-based retailers, there is no equivalent to a store manager.

The store manager wants to keep you as a customer. Good luck finding a person like that at a cyber retailer, the cable company, your credit card company, or a health insurance company. Retaining you as a customer isn’t any more important to them than retaining you as a driver is to the DMV.

Roger Saunders
Guest
4 years 6 months ago
The first step is to make certain that the front-line associate who is dealing with the issue is empowered. That step requires that the leadership team makes certain that training is in place and the associate is provided with examples of working through the issue with unhappy customers. We have all experienced customer service problems. I know that I have made my share of mistakes that displeased a customer or two over the past 40 years. Step # 1: recognized the customers point of view; Step @ 2 state that you understand and offer an explanation of what has caused the issue; Step # 3: assure them that you want to help; Step # 4: Find out how you can make them happy; Step # 5: Say thank you. I’ll relate a something I experienced today where a Budget/Avis agent effectively used this 5-step process with me. I use Budget/Avis for a couple hundred days of rental each year, Fast Break Member, etc. When I flew into the Columbus, Ohio Airport this morning, my name… Read more »
Jeff Hall
Guest
4 years 6 months ago

Customer service failures require humility, acknowledgement and genuine efforts to reconcile the issue.

Most often, responses fall short due to poorly trained employees who are absent any sense of empowerment to address and resolve service failures in real time. This drives consumers crazy, and drives them away, often for good.

The long-term, lifetime value consequences to losing a customer can be staggering, when all it takes is an authentic gesture to connect with the customer in the moment and address the issue in a manner they desire.

Martina Olsen
Guest
Martina Olsen
4 years 5 months ago

Own up to the mistake, apologise and ask how to make things right. Reputation is everything, and a customer service failure handled the right way can bring a ton of positives from it. It shows the company cares about its customers.

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Braintrust
"Some sort of price allowance on a future purchase (if not a refund on the "problem" purchase, if the goods aren’t returned) is a tangible acknowledgement of fault, as well as an incentive to try the store or service provider again. Simply apologizing or issuing a "mea culpa" message isn’t enough."
"Own up to the failure. Apologize. Ask how to make things right. Make things right. It’s not that hard, yet many retailers have trouble doing this, resulting in lost customers and negative word of mouth."
"Showing genuine concern for the consumer is a great start. I find that to be far too rare of an occurrence in my personal experience. Also, looking at company policy and addressing what the consumer wants and seeing if it truly hurts the organization to give them what they want. Just make them happy if they are reasonable."

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