Smart Companies Listen and Respond to Customers- 5 Steps

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Responding to complaints with empathy is vital when responding to issues raised by customers and employees.

How many times have you heard someone say: I just want to be heard!

And yet at times it seems that companies have an agenda and respond as if they have not heard a word we are saying.

Many times, we feel the sales or service representative follows a script which never includes the three simple words: We are sorry. In my last post I spoke about real listening, which by default includes a bit of understanding or a lot of it!

Now, please don’t think I have completely forgotten about the tools we use to listen and respond mainly the Web, social media, and telephony.

Many other sources of information are available on using those tools effectively. At the moment, I am suggesting subtle changes to your communications strategy to maximize and integrate the use of those tools and enhance your brand.

A well-known retailer reportedly is dismissing employees for not upselling product warranties rather than determining why customers don’t want to take the offers.

Conversely other retailers say that they welcome comments from dissatisfied customers via their employees and see those comments as an opportunity to improve their services.

These are two completely different approaches which can have outcomes such as:

Five Steps for Dealing with Customer Issues

Basically, any comment or request from a customer or an employee should be graciously acknowledged, immediately if possible, and accompanied by an action. That whole process requires dedicated resources and a commitment of subject matter experts so that the actions are conclusive. A disgruntled customer will usually stop complaining if the complaint is acknowledged and addressed. I have seen it work again and again.

Today it’s like taking the social media stick away and it can result in a renewed loyalty if the customer feels he has truly been heard. We know the value of financial and marketplace analyses of our businesses and competitor reviews.

Those analytics are important but alone they will not achieve an enhanced brand strategy.

Here are the five steps when responding to employees and customers as your two most important stakeholders:

1. Using a response team made up of a collection of subject matter experts representing various aspects of your business (i.e., sales, marketing, finance, HR). 

This team can be tasked with regularly reviewing concerns and agreeing on the best action.

2. Deploying a response matrix so that if a very serious complaint or crisis occurs such as injury from a product there is an active and quick response process. 

The response team can be tasked with developing this matrix.

3. 24/7 monitoring of all your customer contact points whether online, via call center or in person.

This will help you deploy the response matrix as quickly as possible and avoid the piling on that can occur when a comment in social media is left unattended or even worse, blocked.

4. Turn complaints into suggestions by ensuring that the complaints are used to develop employee and customer service improvements and in your products themselves. 

This is validation of listening.

5. Last but not least, responses need to echo advertising and PR. 

Said differently, don’t isolate your advertising agency or your team responsible for advertising and PR.

They are making claims about your products and services that will be viewed more sincerely if other responses are consistent.

Related articles:

Can Your Customers Spot “Professional Presence”?

Understanding and Serving Your Customers

5 Keys To Why Your Customers Buy

Rethinking Customer Engagement


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