Better CX Starts With Assuming the Worst About Your Customers

Businesses are built around respect for customers. Going beyond “the customer is always right,” traditional CX relies on the idea that customers are usually patient, measured, and kind.

In a world where customers are patient, measured, and kind, customers will calmly hum along to hold music, explain and re-explain problems to different staff members, search various sources for information, and tell friends about a great experience, if they experience one.

In this world, traditional CX, with long wait times, clunky escalation processes, and one-size-fits-all service makes sense.

But that’s not the world we live in.

It’s not that people have gotten meaner, or that chivalry is dead, or any other version of a “kids these days suck” argument.

It’s that we’re all human, and we all have bad days, often for very good reasons.

For those in the customer service industry, it pays to assume that you’re catching customers on their worst day.

You’re catching customers on a day where they are the least patient they’ve ever been. A day where one more setback could tip the scale and send the customer ranting to their network. A day where customers are acting from a place of stress and anger, as so many of us do when faced with problems that drain our time and energy.

Yes, having empathy for customers means assuming that they will not - at least temporarily - have empathy for you or your team.

Knowing this, how can CX teams anticipate customers' anger, and adapt to their actual behaviours Well, it pays to make a few more ugly assumptions (for CX strategy purposes only!)

1. Assume customers are unforgiving - and will leave if their expectations are not met

Businesses don’t get second chances. According to Ovum, 82% of customers have stopped doing business with a company following a bad customer experience. This problem exists across industries, but some are hit harder than others. The CallMiner Churn Index notes that churn rates are accelerating in the communications (mobile phones, internet, and landlines), banking, and property insurance industries.

There are many ways to address this issue, but the first step is getting the right data. Businesses should start by tracking customer churn rates, so they can step up when rates spike.

2. Assume customers will tell everyone about why they’re leaving

Are people more likely to complain about bad experiences or compliment good ones? Research from American Express’ suggests that bad experiences make a stronger impact. Americans tell an average of 15 people about a poor service experience, versus the 11 people they’ll tell about a good experience, according to American Express’ 2017 Customer Service Barometer.

Track customer satisfaction, or CSAT, to monitor and estimate how many disgruntled customers are out venting to their networks. In addition to tracking the bad news, track the good news too! Identify clients with high net promoter scores (NPS) to find brand champions who can counter negative narratives and remind customers of the good times.

3. Assume customers will hold a grudge

Customers who have low CSAT and NPS scores, and eventually churn, are difficult to win back. Ruby Newell-Legner's “Understanding Customers” states that it takes a customer 12 positive experiences to redeem one unresolved negative experience.

This is a tough standard, and one that’s hard to meet: 68% of customers will not return after switching providers (Accenture), and 4 in 10 customers will avoid vendors for two or more years following a bad service interaction. (Zendesk).

Once a customer feels mistreated or undervalued, they’re gone. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in great CX that builds customer loyalty.

4. Assume that, in this one aspect of their lives, customers are both picky and lazy

Or, in other words, customers are encountering processes that drain them of their time and energy, and are responding in kind.

According to Harvard Business Review, delighting customers is not the most important part of CX. The way to build customer loyalty is to reduce customer effort - the work they must do to get their problem solved.

If your CX limits customers to one kind of support platform (ex. only phone, only digital, etc.), scatters information across different pages or across different support systems, or makes it difficult or time-consuming to resolve their problems, then your CX is broken.

Investigate ways to slash wait times, enable multi-channel support to let customers choose the platform they’re most comfortable with, and provide multi-stage support for a single issue so that customers can get what they need in a single, seamless transaction.

5. Assume customers still want to be treated with respect

In a CX setting, respect means efficiency and meeting expectations. It also means enhancing personalization to approach every customer as a complex individual with unique concerns.

Leading with respect and personalization is more than just fluff - it has a clear financial impact. According to a study by Ovum and Oponium Research, 52% of consumers say they view companies more favourably when customer service is more personalized to their interests. Favourable views translate to greater brand loyalty, increased customer retention, and a healthy bottom line.

Businesses can leverage automation to create personalized customer journeys, including seamlessly escalating to an agent for greater assistance. This level of personalization allows businesses to bundle in tailored promotions and upsell opportunities alongside customized support.

Crafting a winning CX strategy

The message here isn’t that customers behave badly. It’s that assuming the worst and then empathizing with customers’ pain can lead businesses to a more efficient, data-driven, personalized CX strategy. Ultimately, this reimagined CX strategy will drive stronger relationships, retention, and revenue.

Assuming that you’ll catch customers on their worst day helps you put your CX strategy at its best.

To learn more about the churn rates, CSAT scores, and measuring healthy versus unhealthy CX, check out our article, “10 Signs That Your Customer Service Needs Help (and What You Can Do To Make It Better)”.

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