Where Did We Go Wrong?
In any relationship, no one wants to be taken for granted. The basic elements of a relationship—communication, openness, and honesty—are necessary to sustain any relationship in the long run. The relationship with your customer is no different. Customers need to know that they are appreciated and heard at every touchpoint in your process, and they expect a certain level of familiarity with you in all interactions.
When one of the above relationship elements is missing, both parties can be left feeling confused and perplexed. To deepen your awareness of customer relationships, let's look at the three main reasons why customer relationships go bad:
- Inflicting one too many minor wounds: Customer relationships normally don't end due to one incident, but the accumulation of many incidents over time. Customers expect that you will promptly answer and respond to inquiries, and that your sales associates will be knowledgeable and courteous. However, when customer expectations continuously fall short, incidents can pile up and feel like salt being rubbed into an open wound.
- Failing to acknowledge and take responsibility for mistakes: No matter how well you plan, mistakes happen. But how you handle the mistake can decide the trajectory of your customer relationship. Don’t bury your head in the sand or become defensive. Immediately acknowledge the mistake and take the proper steps to rectify the situation. Pretending that the mistake didn’t happen or that it didn’t require follow up misses the point altogether.
- Failing to communicate when things go bad: We all know that news travels fast, but how do you handle bad news? Failing to communicate when things go wrong, or waiting to do so, is perceived by your customers as ignoring the problem, or worse, ignoring them. Surprisingly, when you are open and honest with customers, you are putting their needs first. No one wants to be blindsided or 'read about it in the newspaper.'
These three reasons provide easy-to-follow thought points for helping you to more successfully navigate your customer relationships. But the question remains, how are you dealing with breakdowns as they happen at each customer touchpoint? Do you have a plan of action and an empowered workforce to immediately take responsibility and repair the relationship?
Test Your Process
Here is a helpful test process for each customer touchpoint to examine the "what ifs" regarding the three reasons above. Use this process to test your organization's ability to be as responsive as possible to keeping your customer relationships integrity in place:
- Select any given customer touchpoint where you are interacting with the customer.
- Run three scenarios that test the relationship with the customer at each touchpoint. For example, what if the normal person who deals with that customer is out and you must help them, but you don't know the details of their history? Or, what if the customer comes in with a series of historical blunders that your company did and they want them rectified, but you have no history with this customer nor with their complaints
- Record or discuss how you would normally handle them and document.
- Develop at least two alternatives that could make the experience a win-win for the relationship and more deeply solidify that customer's loyalty to your organization and advocate for your brand.
Your goal is to care for and maintain the relationship with your customer through thick and thin.