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Turning an Unhappy Customer into an Advocate: The Business Case for Customer Recovery

Poor customer service may be a company’s worst nightmare. Unhappy customers are likely to tell just about everyone they know when they’ve had a bad experience. Those complaints may forever tarnish a company’s brand. This is truer than ever thanks to the ease of publicly sharing complaints through the Internet and social media.

According to the 2010 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer:
• 81 percent of Americans have decided to never do business with a company again because of poor customer service
• 52 percent of consumers expect something in return after a poor customer service experience, beyond resolving the problem
• 70 percent want an apology or some form of reimbursement

A negative service experience doesn’t only affect that customer, but potential referrals. In the same study:
• 48 percent of consumers report always or often using an online posting or blog to get others' opinions about a company's customer service reputation
• 57 percent are looking for warnings saying they put greater credence in negative reviews on blogs and social networking sites than on positive ones

At Safelite AutoGlass®, the national leader in vehicle glass repair and replacement serving more than 4 million customers annually, we created a department specifically to address this portion of customers – the Executive Services team, which won the American Business “Stevie” 2010 Customer Service Department of the Year Award. In just one year, the company has been able to resolve the majority of service issues, making a strong case for such a team.

Recognizing the Problem

To track customer satisfaction, Safelite® uses the popular Net Promoter Score (NPS) method. Developed by Bain & Co., NPS answers the ultimate question: How likely is it that you would recommend this company to a friend or colleague? Subtract your percentage of detractors (those that have a negative opinion) from your percentage of promoters (those that love you) and you get your NPS.

In 2008, analysis of the NPS survey uncovered valuable data impacting the company’s reputation. As can be expected, customers who had encountered a service issue after a repair or replacement rated the company very low in the NPS survey.

In response, Safelite® undertook a large study to address how to better meet the needs of this important customer group. The company reviewed existing research on customer satisfaction, conducted informal interviews about perceptions of Safelite® service and reviewed world-class service companies to learn about their best practices.

As a result, the company reconfigured its existing customer service team, turning it into the Executive Services Department.

The new and improved Executive Services Department doesn’t wait for customers to call them to complain. Rather, they proactively seek to correct potential service issues by flagging customers who gave the company a high Net Promoter Score but added a negative comment or those who mentioned a service issue in the survey.

Step #1: Identify the Right Personnel

Not every personality is a good fit for the job of a customer advocate handling service issues. There must be a strong level of emotional intelligence to empathize with the customer. Therefore, we looked closely at the capabilities of our existing team and moved them around as needed.

What was left was an elite team of customer service veterans with an average of four years of service. They are promoted from the ranks of other customer service departments after showing an aptitude for consistently delighting customers with more challenging service issues.

Step #2: Empower Employees

The Executive Services team members undergo specialized training that involves learning about various vehicle damage scenarios, company culture of insurance partners, and advanced conflict-resolution strategies. These customer advocates are also given greater decision-making authority in order to fully own and resolve a customer issue.

Here’s an example: After a windshield has been replaced, the customer calls and reports their paint has been scratched. Instead of interrogating the customer to prove the damage may have been there before the replacement, the Executive Services team member automatically provides the customer with a solution: reimbursing paint work in this scenario. The representative does not have to seek approval from the manager.

This ensures a timely resolution that demonstrates the company’s commitment to the best in service. It also shows that the company is listening to its customers, a trait that will encourage the customer to give the company a second chance.

Step #3: Measure Progress

Importantly, it doesn’t end there. Upon the resolution of a service issue, customers are automatically sent a new NPS survey to evaluate their experience with this team. These scores are evaluated on a monthly basis as the team works to ensure these once dissatisfied customers become delighted promoters of the Safelite® brand.

Because of this commitment to provide unsurpassed levels of service to this group of customers, the Executive Services department drove its NPS scores up by 28 percentage points in one year – an increase in customer satisfaction resulting in a value of over $11 million to the company.

Make It Work For You

The Safelite AutoGlass® Executive Services team illustrates some valuable business processes anyone can deploy:

• Develop a way to monitor customer satisfaction so as to recognize when there are issues
• Create a highly specialized team trained to respond to unhappy customers
• Hire and train this team to advocate on behalf of the customer
• Empower them to make executive decisions to resolve issues
• Circle back to the customer to ensure the issue was resolved properly

The Executive Services Department demonstrates the lengths to which Safelite® will go to ensure customer satisfaction. The company strives to exceed customers’ expectations, build long-lasting relationships and delight those they serve every time.

By: Tom Feeney

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