Has the customer service experience become less painful?

Absolutely not according to some recent research. In fact, research from the National Customer Rage Study out of Arizona State University reveals that satisfaction with service is at similar levels as seen in the 1970s. With the millions of dollars organizations are spending on customer service technology and systems, call centers, etc. why does superior customer care remain so elusive?

Upon closer review of the customer experience, companies are doing many things reasonably well by providing consumers easier access to products and services, and providing automated systems and other easy online support networks. The problem appears to be in complaint management.

Most can relate to the following fairly well: When a problem arises you want to resolve it as quickly as possible. If not, your frustration increases until it’s “fixed.” With that said, what happens to you when it takes three to four attempts (the average according to the Arizona State study) to contact the company and get the problem resolved? Your frustration turns to anger and eventually, for some, into rage. When people reach this level of emotionality, 6% use profanity and 25% just start yelling. What is a service rep to do? This is the crucial question.

Unfortunately, most service reps are ill equipped to handle this type of reaction. It takes understanding and skill to effectively deal with a customer who is emotionally hijacked. Trying to reason or explain your way through this emotional chaos is only going to increase the customer’s frustration. At this moment, it is imperative that service reps empathically listen and respond accordingly. Yet, service reps have often not had training in this area. In the end, 59% of customers decide never to do business with the company again and proceed to tell the story to 15 people, all of which has a considerable effect on a company’s bottom line.

Turn that rage into an opportunity for a superior customer experience by:

  • Allowing the person to vent their anger as you listen respectfully — do not defend yourself
  • Paraphrase: “After the third time of not working correctly, you just lost it.”
  • Demonstrate empathy by recognizing and validating their feelings about the situation: “That had to be frustrating when it kept malfunctioning.”

Customer care is a people issue. Technology and creative systems are extremely useful and have their place in the overall customer experience. However, customer service always boils down to the transaction between people. For small- and medium-size companies that can’t afford high-level technology, focus on your greatest asset — your employees. Provide them with the training, skills and tools necessary to manage complaints. When up to 59% of customers turn their back on companies that treat them poorly, can you really afford to do otherwise?

— Keith Levick, Ph.D., is the CEO of Goren and Associates, a corporate education/training/executive coaching firm; and the Associate Publisher of Customer Care News magazine.
Learn more about creating the ultimate customer experience.


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