Nothing makes or breaks an existing relationship with a customer like a problem handled effectively or mismanaged. How high-value customers are treated during a problem resolution process is of the utmost importance in hoping to retain them…
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Companies making mistakes is nothing new. As consumers, we are no longer surprised when a wire we send goes missing, when a phone bill is accidentally overcharged, or when a credit card charge appears twice. No matter how advanced companies appear to have gotten with all kinds of new channels and gadgets for interacting with their customers, it’s really all just a façade. Underneath it all are broken processes, indifferent employees, and overwhelmed systems.
Over time, every consumer gets to see under the hood of the companies they are engaged with, experiencing first-hand that all isn’t right – mistakes happen, and happen often. It’s not so much about these mistakes happening as to how they are managed that is of the utmost importance for companies. Studies have of course found that problem resolution, poorly managed, has a high impact on customer loss. What’s surprising is what happens when the opposite happens – when problem resolution is managed effectively – a customer’s overall satisfaction is higher after the experience than before the problem even occurred! Not that this suggests companies should cause problems to occur and then fix them effectively to increase customer satisfaction, but a very positive finding nonetheless.
We believe that high-value customers should receive a customized level of treatment in problem resolution efforts to ensure the experience doesn’t drive them to leave due to a poor handling of the situation. There are six principles in managing the problems of high-value customers that should be observed, regardless of sector, by all customer care teams:
1. Dedicate the Best – The first step is to ensure the best resources are put to the task of resolving high-value customers’ problems. Be it in a call center, in a customer service center, or in the back-office, the highest quality and most efficient employees need to be assigned to resolving problems of high-value customers. Based on the volumes, the most experienced, efficient, and effective employees should handle such problems, from A to Z. If a high-value customer calls in and lodges a complaint about a given issue, a dedicated employee should handle all aspects of the resolution, from start to finish, and give this impression to the customer – regardless of how the process works in the background. The employee should handle all interactions with the customer from the lodging of the complaint to the resolution.
2. Prioritize – Regardless of the available resources or backlog in any of the contact channels mentioned above (and others), high-value customers’ issues should be treated as a priority. If a high-value customer emails in a complaint, based on his or her value, the problem should be prioritized in relation to other outstanding issues. First-in first-out cannot apply, regardless of how fair a process it may be. Nothing can irritate such a customer more than to feel that they are being treated like any average customer. The value such customers generate dictates that they be treated in a prioritized manner in regards to problem resolution. Companies must ensure they prioritize such customer complaints regardless of the channel it is received from, be it through Twitter, the call center, face-to-face in an office, etc.
3. Manage the Customer – Throughout the entire problem resolution cycle (which in some cases can take weeks to complete depending on the issue at hand), the assigned employee must closely manage the customer. This involves setting the customer’s expectation as to when he or she will be contacted regarding progress on the issue, setting expectations as to when the issue will be resolved, and being transparent in all ways as to the resolution process. Too often companies ignore this process, keeping the customer in the dark as to progress or lack thereof around the resolution effort, when a phone call or two and a timeline estimate for the resolution would put the customer at ease.
4. Take Further Ownership – High-value customers who have gone through a negative experience will be on edge for some time, fearing such issues may happen again, not sure if they wish to continue the relationship. The employee who has handled the entire problem resolution process should take ownership of the customer through giving his or her name and contact number, allowing the customer to contact them should any issues arise in the future. Such a gesture will go a long way towards making the customer feel at ease, knowing they are in good hands, knowing they have an actual person they can contact rather than a call center or website.
5. Compensate – As a token gesture, if possible, compensate the customer with something he or she would appreciate upon resolution of the problem. For example, in the case of an airline, it could be an extension of the customer’s loyalty program high tier privilege or a couple free upgrades. For a telecom, it could be a free handset, free international talk-time, etc. The reward should be in line with the customer’s value to the company as well as the severity of the problem / distress caused.
6. Follow-Up – After a high-value customer has had a negative experience that has been effectively resolved, a follow-up contact is recommended to ensure he or she feels valued. A call by a branch manager in the case of a bank or a team leader in the call center will go a long way in to ensuring the negative experience is forgotten (at least until the next time something possibly goes wrong) and any ill will / desire to end the relationship is put to rest.
Using the above principles, companies can go a long way towards ensuring that high-value customers are retained and possibly even more satisfied than they were before a problem occurred.
To learn more about improving your problem-resolution operations, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.