CxOs, Vice-Presidents and other senior management – those who have the opportunity to make the biggest impact on customer experience – are mostly tasked with managing the big picture.  Unfortunately this leads to having little idea of daily customer interactions on an individual level.  Because of social media, it’s imperative that execs start getting back into the nitty-gritty.  After a poor experience a few weeks ago with a large multi-national company this really hit home.

 Bad Customer Service

I needed a product repaired and had purchased an onsite warranty.  I opened a web ticket and for three days I added comments – until I realized that nobody was reading the updates.  I called the company and was told that if I checked page 18 of my warranty document I would see that sometimes, depending on the kind of repair, I would need to send the product back to them.  I asked to be escalated to a supervisor and was told that, in this type of instance, I couldn’t speak with a manager.

Wow. Tweet. “I used to buy <company> products because of great customer service.  Too bad that went away. #company #sucks #ass”.

I’m sure you know that both of these issues – nobody reading the online system and no way to escalate a problem – are indicative of policies gone wrong.  I’m not here to talk about why.  Most likely they are unintentional and somewhere along the chain the need for these things to happen got “lost in summation”.  I emailed the Vice President and North American General Manager to let him know about the issues and commented “…providing the highest quality of customer care is the best way to retain existing customers – often more than the actual services or products offered. ”

He agreed, and to his credit I received an email back that same day in which he said “This is not consistent with the level of service we provide our customers… I apologize for your poor experience and our failure to address your concerns.”  I had an engineer onsite fixing my issue within 24 hours, and a customer service representative following up to make sure I received a high quality of care a few minutes later.

But this really highlights an issue.  By the time customer satisfaction information reaches executives it is turned into numbers, percentages and graphs.  A few customer comments that reinforce the numbers are included.  An executive then looks at the satisfaction trend, and unless there is a major hiccup they move to the next big picture item.  Who cares about the little problems?  I mean – since customer service wouldn’t let me escalate the issue, the issue ended up becoming really escalated.

Your answer might be that the “little” problems will quickly snowball into big problems and the graphs the execs look at will change.  This is true, but you need people to answer a customer satisfaction survey negatively before the trends start showing up on your reports.

So now we get into the whole social media conversation that everyone is #sick #of #hearing.  Your poor customer satisfaction issue won’t be reflected in your monthly customer satisfaction key performance indicator as it used to be.  In the old days, customer satisfaction would decrease and then, eventually, you would see overall sales decrease as a result.  Now, because of social media you will go directly to decreased sales numbers.  Your customer satisfaction numbers may still look stellar, but fewer people are buying your product because their friends and their influencers are telling them not to – before they even have problems that can show up on reports.

So how do you fix this?

  • Get into the nitty-gritty and look at your customer experience from start to finish.

  • Ask to see every negative comment received by customer service or said on social media.  If you are a large company look at a percentage of them.

  • Directly engage in a dialog with a few of the people who have made the comments. Find out why they had issues and see if there are correctable processes to deal with them.

  • Pretend to be a customer or prospect.  Do what the big retail companies do and fund a “secret shopper” program.

Do all of this and I’m pretty certain you’ll see sales increase.

Oh – and never ever EVER tell someone that has a customer service problem that they can’t talk to a manager.

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Chris is currently the Chief Innovation Officer at Internet Marketing Ninjas where he manages M&A activity, legal work, and also focuses on the use of technology and other solutions to lead innovation and growth. Prior to this, Chris led the sale of his $10mil information technology company, twice an Inc500 fastest growing company in the US, to an investment banking firm in NYC. He has a strong passion for sailing, and had the opportunity to spend two years travelling from Lake Champlain to the southern Bahamas and back with his family.

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