Friday, January 24, 2014

Polar vortex of consumer unhappiness

Turn misfortune into an opportunity to rise making your customers happy even in less-than perfect situations. 

During the recent cold snap courtesy of the Polar Vortex, businesses were inundated with delays, airlines were the source of much malcontent, and generally speaking, if you dealt with any human being in northern North America in early 2014, you were bound to hear complaints about customer service.

What I want to put out there is this: Why not turn that misfortune into an opportunity to wow and amaze your customers with outstanding customer service?

I can see the scoffers now... Am I right to assume that the following excuses are being bounced around?:

"That takes too much planning" 


"That's unrealistic! How can we know what to expect and then plan for it?" 

Those are valid questions but I'll ask this one in response:

Can you afford NOT to be prepared?

Most businesses can and should (read this post about why customers are so important) excel at keeping customers happy when things are running at status quo. But where businesses have the chance to shine (and rise above the competition) is when things are less than perfect. The time is ripe then to stand out, and it might take less effort than you thought. The pay off: a lasting impression.

Small actions, big results
It's not easy AND it takes planning (it's not a quick fix - sorry), but if you can provide customer service excellence in the worst of times, the carry over impact can lead to enjoying more of the best of times.

What I'm proposing doesn't have to involve a top-down makeover of every person's role in a company. What it does involve is having a few things in place and taking a good hard look in the mirror. 

Here is my three-step plan for how to prepare for the worst, and make your company looks its best in the process:

1. Role play: At your next staff meeting, take a few minutes to go around the table and have everyone imagine they are an angry customer. The absolute worst incarnation of an upset customer. What is the worst, most horrible feedback you could ever receive? Make a list. Don't censor, don't bury your head in the sand.

2. Face it, own it: Now that you have this list of worst case scenarios staring you in the face, take a step back and a deep breath. You are likely surprise to find that having them in front you probably feels pretty good, a relief that they are no longer bouncing around in your mind, haunting and waiting to lash out. Acknowledge them, but also acknowledge that they are probably not as scary as you thought, and the best part is: there are solutions to be had!

3. Get creative: The goal is to reasonably solve these problems to save your reputation, but most importantly, save your relationship with your customers. Again, stepping out of the 'business' mentality and into how you yourself feel as a consumer and human being is absolutely key. Make sure your solutions are genuine, driven by the desire to make things right for your consumers, and in turn, they will remain your biggest fans.

THE TAKEAWAY: Customers are so important - I cannot stress that enough. They are your lifeline and your future. Nurture them in good times and in bad, and you will be rewarded tenfold with loyalty, word of mouth promotion and great insight to make your business even better.

Best of luck,

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