Tag Archives: customer satisfaction

When Customers Attack

The explosion of social media has given almost everyone access to a digital printing press, soapbox and a potentially very loud virtual megaphone. These folks include your customers, some of whom, may be upset with your products or the way your organization treats them. Others may simply have an ax to grind, and you may just be the first thing they see after sharpening it.

Communications consultant Paul Gillin and tech entrepreneur Greg Gianforte (G&G), have written a valuable book – Attack of the Customers.  It is part history, part survival kit, and part vaccine help you deal with the next customer attack. To quote G&G: “There has never been a better time to be a critic.”

The book explores both the challenge and opportunity that empowered and angry customers afford. The threats are obvious. It used to be that unsatisfied customers would not return or tell a small circle of friends that they didn’t like your offering. Now if you alienate them, they can create a Facebook page or go to Youtube and post a criticism. If their critique get noticed, think of United Breaks Guitars; you’ve not only got mail, you’ve got a problem.

Attacks can also be opportunities. G&G show how engaging unhappy customers can convert them into loyal fans. Responding to criticism can allow you to improve your own procedures, operations, and business models. This can enable you to increase both customer satisfaction and profitability.

The book is no academic treatise. It is a deep compendium of cases categorized and analyzed for lessons learned. Students of social media may be familiar with notorious cases, such as Jet Blue’s stranding passengers on the tarmac for up to nine hours. G&G, dive deeper and present examples and analyses, I had not encountered.

Social media can both amplify and shape responses of small groups of consumers. Often these complaints fail to propagate and so die out, before attaining critical mass. But not always, as the book illustrates extensively. The author’s broad experience is a welcome antidote to simplistic or formulaic responses to bad PR and worse corporate reflexes. G&G offer perspective on when you should engage critics and when it may be safe to ignore them. The latter should be a conscious choice rather than an ostrich-life reflex.

If your organization hasn’t been savaged in social media yet, it may well be tomorrow. Read Attack of the Customers and be prepared.

Note: Attack Of The Customers is currently available only through Amazon.com. You can also read a free sample chapter here.


Your Opinion is Very Important to Us (really)

Like many businesses and households, I’ve been shopping a lot on line, and not just on CyberMonday. After the checkout or in the confirming email, we’ve also noticed a proliferation of “customer satisfaction” surveys.

The Stones still have this one nailed:

Neither you nor your customers will get satisfaction, if you imitate many of the ham-handed requests for feedback, which increasingly follow online ordering.

It is now very easy, and often free, to create a web, mobile, or email survey or feedback form with tools from bizrate, SurveyMonkey, SurveyTracker, google.docs and many many others. The ease of creation is perhaps part of the problem.

In principle, gaging the quality of your customer’s experience is desirable. But not at the expense of creating a poor experience. The effort to add an extra question or page of questions of nice to know information is negligible. Since you have your attention, you might be tempted to ask you about other suppliers, products they didn’t buy, or try to sell them something else. Don’t.

Incredibly firms, whose web sites enable a customer to find and buy a product in 2 or 3 clicks ask the same customer to spend ten or more extra minutes completing a satisfaction survey.

Four Ways To Irritate Your Customers:

I’ve seen multiple examples of all of these in the last two weeks:

  1. The Long String-Along. Unless you have a deeper relationship with your customer and are compensating them in some way keep it short. Avoid pile on “nice to know” questions. Sending your respondents to a survey with a continue button at the bottom of the page, and the following page, etc. can lead to the customer abandoning the survey or speeding through it and giving unconsidered responses.
  2. Require answers to all questions, regardless of whether they may pertain to a given customer or your offerings. For example a seller of camping equipment included questions about categories it does not and never has sold.
  3. Require identifying information, such as an email address. If you want to identify a respondent, offer to send them some sort of tsatske. You’ll have to mail it to them and hence need contact information. Of course, this does not give you the right to pester them.
  4. Over Quantification. You are an expert on your product and believe you can distinguish nuances such that a 10 point rating scale makes sense. This pseudo-precision not only makes your surveys difficult to read, it also reduces the reliability of your results.

Instead keep your interaction to what fits on a postcard. Or shorter. Ask less upfront and you will learn more as well as keep the goodwill of your customers.

I recently had to call the tech support line of my ISP. I was asked if I would stay on the line to rate the service I had just received. It consisted of a single automated question – rating the service on a five point scale with a single press on the phone keypad.

Now I got satisfaction.