I was reading a post today on an online discussion about some of the problems that small business owners were having with their marketing.
One of the owners, who runs a upholstery and carpet-cleaning business, mentioned that she was having a problem with customers who complain on Google or other review sites like Yelp!, and damage her reputation. These customers were people who had unreasonable expectations (like getting service for free, cleaning rooms they didn’t mention they wanted cleaned, or turning down projects because it was unsafe for the employees).
And so they would complain online and wreck the businesses’ reputation. Often, these same people followed a pattern of flaming a service that didn’t meet their unreasonable (and unspoken) expectations.
The business-owner felt that she was “held hostage” by these kinds of people!
Do YOU ever feel this way?
3 Keys to Solidifying a Great Customer Experience (And Help Keep the Trolls at Bay):
1. Set expectations up-front and openly to establish a trusting relationship. When you are beginning to work with a customer, is there a process that helps you discover what the true expectations are?
One aspect of human behavior is that we often do not let others know what we are really thinking, especially if we view our interactions as merely transactional. We don’t naturally invest much emotional or mental energy in transactional relationships. So, we may expect the service-provider in a transactional relationship to somehow read our minds and anticipate our needs. This is because there is an inherent mistrust in transactional relationships.
Think about this: great waitstaff in a restaurant know that if they want a large tip, they need to be able to emotionally connect with their customer quickly, project warm intentions, and establish trust by demonstrating competence.
For a truly trusting relationship to form, where we can feel free to voice our true concerns up-front, we need to feel both a sense of warmth and competence. (More on warmth and competence here: “The Human Brand” by Chris Malone.
The companies that produce the best customer experiences look at their business in terms of relationship-building, not as a service-provider. They communicate warmth by taking the “side” of the customer first, discovering the unspoken needs and concerns through empathetic dialogue, THEN they sell. They demonstrate their competence by asking the right questions up front, and listening carefully before they offer their solutions. If their solution doesn’t fit, they don’t sell it. They value the relationship with the real human-being they are serving more than the potential for revenue.
They also develop processes in their business-model to capture this information early. An example might be for the carpet-cleaning business I mentioned earlier, to have a thorough face-to-face interview with a prospective customer with a form where the customer can write down any possible needs prior to placing the order.
This would require extra work, and may neccessitate the company raising prices, but studies show that many potential customers will pay almost any price to work with someone who understands them and projects warmth and competence up front.
Having some kind of written format for the interview, that the customer fills out, can also tap into another aspect of human behavior: the tendency for people to act consistently with their stated beliefs, especially if written down. ( More on this here: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini )
2. Confirm customer expectations after the service is provided. As a follow-up to the prior key point, after the service is provided work an “exit interview” into your process. No process can be improved without measurement and feedback. Document the feedback to make sure you have captured what the customer really wanted and met expectations. If needed, schedule a follow-up service to address anything that the customer might still need. If done in a way that projects the feeling of warmth and competence, the customer will often feel positive about paying extra for the additional service.
The reason a customer might want a service “for free” has everything to do with expectations, not because they are inherently cheapskates. If a customer expects to receive real value (as they define it) from the service, they will gladly pay for it. If the feedback you are receiving indicates that the customer may not understand the value you are providing, perhaps you need to examine how you communicated your value and set the expectations for the relationship up front. Is what you think valuable the same as what your customer thinks is valuable?
3. Get a testimonial as quickly as you can after the service is provided. If possible, get the customer to write down or check-off positive comments on a testimonial card that can be mailed back or collected upon conclusion of the service.
A great customer experience increases dopamine and endorphins in the mind of the customer and the provider. Everyone physically and emotionally feels good about work that is completed where the process enhances the relationship. They also feel bonded to the service-provider. Relationships that are more than simply transactional feel more secure and meaningful. Find ways throughout the process to focus on building the relationship, not simply performing the task contracted.
(It also may go without saying, but if a testimonial or comment is NOT positive, address the concern right away. Many relationships are actually enhanced and improved by how a service-provider handles complaints! See this as the opportunity that it is.)
BONUS KEY: Gratitude!
Thank your customer with a follow-up call or personally hand-written card. Especially if they left a positive comment or testimonial!
Great customer experiences celebrate positive relationships. Let your customers know about how you demonstrate appreciation up-front. Do this by having customer-appreciation events or a thank you page on your website.
This public display of gratitude also helps establish an all-important sense of social-proof. This is the principle where people will look to others for guidance as they are entering into a decision in which they may feel some uncertainty. (More on social-proof here: “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” by Robert Cialdini )
If your potential customer sees that other customers are being appreciated and their relationships valued publicly by the service-provider, they will want that too. And, they will be much less-likely to troll a business they believe to be acting in their good-will.
What about YOU? Do you have additional keys to share that enhance your customer experiences (and avoid the online trolls)? I’d love to hear some of them in the comments below!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jon C. Wretlind works with service-businesses to enhance their customer experience through human-centered marketing consulting and design services. Learn more at http://jonwretlind.comTags: customer experience, Psychology
This post was written by jcwretlind