Dealing with Mistakes – Customer Experience Best Practices

Mistakes happen. Let’s be honest, until we are all replaced by robot overlords, avoidable problems will continue to occur. It’s not that people go out of their way to cause issues, it’s just that we’re all human beings and mistakes are to some extent inevitable, especially at a time like this pandemic when users and agents are forced out of their usual working environments and having to operate from home.

Often external stresses will mean that a person is not functioning at 100%, and in other cases, they could be completely outside of an individual’s control and occur due to the action of another person, tool or system. The issue isn’t that a mistake happened, rather it is about how individuals and companies deal with the mistakes that occur.

At an individual level, do employees own up to their and take accountability or do they try and avoid blame, or worse, try to blame another? Do employees simply pretend that there is no problem at all and ignore the situation, hoping that it will magically go away, or do they take ownership and attempt to resolve the problem? In addition, do the employees resolve the underlying cause of the problem itself or simply deal with the surface level symptoms?

Generally speaking, customers are a lot more receptive and forgiving with a situation when an individual holds their hands up and accepts responsibility. Research has shown that customers make decisions based not only on price and performance but also on instinct and feel. With the ever-increasing growth of social and reputation for brands online, companies that fail to understand how issue ownership can impact them, can face consequences.

Sadly, there are many recent cases where some of the largest companies in the world simply fell down when it came to ownership of a mistake. These brands do not get punished for a single mistake, but rather for the experiences of multiple customers across the entire customer journey. These experiences color expectations and far outweigh price in the decision-making process.

Doing it Right & Learning by Example

A great example of doing it the right way is a company we’re all probably quite familiar with. Starbucks has made customer experience a core tenet of their operation and it’s one of the primary reasons people are willing to pay a premium for their daily coffee.

While the quality of their brew is generally better than many other chains (in my opinion), it is not the best coffee in the world. However, Starbucks has managed to get on almost every street corner through its best-in-class service.

You see, Starbucks has a policy in place for handling mistakes. While the service they provide on a day-to-day basis is good in itself, it’s how they handle the mistakes that help them stand out. When they make a mistake with an order – which happens – they immediately own up to it, apologize and replace the item with no questions asked and no fuss needed.

In some cases, they will refund the order if necessary to ensure that their customer leaves with a smile. The key point to understand with this is that the employee has the ability to make these decisions by themselves. They do not need to escalate and get approval as they have the authority.

Others don’t always get it Right

Now another company that we’re all familiar with is Apple. They are known for providing excellent service and products that are simple and easy to use. However, customer experience is not a one-time thing. It’s important to continually focus on providing exceptional service across all channels as one mistake can sour an experience.

Most people are familiar with the Genius Bar staffed by Apple experts able to solve any and all problems. On a recent visit to an Apple store I had an opportunity to deal with these individuals and they were able to quickly and easily solve my issue. Realizing however, that I had another issue with another Apple product that I did not have close to hand, I had to schedule a call for further assistance.

Receiving the call early the next day, I started into an explanation of my problem but was disconnected due to phone issues. Expecting that I would get an immediate call back, I waited patiently for a callback but unfortunately did not receive one. Searching through my emails I found the confirmation email and attempted to coordinate a follow-up appointment.

This is where my problems started though. Apple had attempted to make the process seamless and simple, but despite multiple attempts I continued to receive an error message that they were “unable to schedule a call” and I “should try again later”. After many attempts, I ended up giving up in frustration.

Now, no company or organization wants to hear that their customers have given up. Whether that is with their support team or with a shopping cart. A focus on CX and customer experience can help ensure that companies understand the impact of failure at all levels of the organization. It’s important to remember and realize that this focus needs to be from both ends as leaders need to let employees make decisions, but they also need to provide them with the right tools for their job.

Improving Customer Experience Through Best Practices

Customer experience is not a one-time task as has already been mentioned. It is a continuous and ongoing process of improvement, however some standard best practices can be built into a company’s operation to ensure that they are providing the highest level of service on a regular basis.

Treat Them Like People

Your customers are not numbers. They need to be greeted by name and felt welcome. If you do not have the option of face-to-face interaction try video conferencing. Where possible, try to remove conversations from impersonal channels like chat, text and email to phone and video. If your only interface is through text and email, ensure that you really understand how your words will make the recipient feel.

Give Your Employees Authority

You trust your employees to help customers and provide solutions to a customer and their demands. By not giving them the authority to approve small charges without an escalation, you are only demonstrating a lack of trust in their judgement and ability. Empower your employees to deliver on customer expectations.

Keep Your Commitments

As already discussed, mistakes happen. However, if you make a commitment to contact a customer at a specific time it is critical that you meet that commitment. During the case of problem resolution, solving a problem is not always possible by a specific time. Even in these cases, it is better to contact the customer and inform them that you are still investigating as a lack of contact simply makes the customer believe that they have been forgotten.

Leverage Tools and Technologies

Just because you have done something in a specific fashion for a period of time does not mean that this is the only way of working. Use new technologies like chat to communicate with customers in a timelier manner. In addition, use OMNI case routing across all channels to ensure that regardless of the method a client uses to communicate with your business, the person they speak to will have all of the right information available. Customers that have to continually repeat themselves are frustrated even before your representative gets an opportunity to work with them.

Go that Extra Mile

Customer expectation is not a one-time activity. Activities that were exceptional at one-point in time gradually become the accepted norm so with that in mind, it’s critical to own the error if it happens. Companies like L.L.Bean are well known not only for the quality of the products that they provide, but also based on their exceptional return policy and overall service. Not all companies can afford to do this, but making that extra effort is something that does not cost a lot of money while paying significant dividends in the longer term.

Remove Roadblocks

Generally speaking, customers do not really want to talk to you! This might be surprising to hear, but for support teams, customers want a product that works the way it was meant to in the first place. For customer service teams, customers want to have a bill that makes sense and for sales organizations, customers want a way to find the right solution for their requirement without having to speak to someone.

With this in mind it is important to ensure that if they do need to speak to you, you make that discussion as seamless as possible. This includes ensuring that your OMNI routing works but also your phone systems. If your phone system and other tools are unable to handle the demands of your customer base, then you are only adding additional frustrations to their plate.

Nectar is in the business of improving the customer experience. We have a suite of different tools that we can use to verify and ensure that your existing tools and processes meet your expectations and requirements. We can also test your solution from different sites around the world to help identify issues that might be experienced by your customers based on location.

We can help you reduce costs and improve performance while improving your business and its operations. With Nectar in your corner, you can proactively work to resolve any roadblocks that might impact your customer and their experience.

Article Written By:

Hes Yavari, Director CX Practice, Nectar