How to be prepared for customer-service disasters
Ajay Prasad
April 19, 2016

Even companies with exceptional customer service backgrounds can experience disaster at any moment. The internet makes it possible for even a minor customer service blunder to have a tremendous impact on your online reputation. Just like a natural disaster, it’s best to be prepared before the storm ever strikes.


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Disasters can be sudden and unpredictable

A lot of companies believe that customer service disasters won’t happen to them, which makes their occurrence even more sudden. The truth is that you can never know when a customer interaction may go south, and you never know the impact that it will have on your overall reputation and image.

You need to have crisis management plans in place for any potential situation. These plans must outline all general responses to a particular crisis, so that when disaster strikes you can spend more time innovating and strategizing, rather than scrambling to pick up the fallen pieces. Keep record of all customer interactions and complaints – including how you responded to them – and add them to your crisis management plans. You never know when you’ll need to refer back to them.

Do you know your relationship with your customers?

Knowing all aspects of your relationship with your customers is so critical when preparing for the worst. Sometimes disasters can occur due to severe misunderstanding, so you need to be aware of and analyze how your customers feel about you and why they feel that way. People don’t like it when events and situations contradict the way that they feel, so you need to ensure that you never contradict yourself in any way. You need to prevent cognitive dissonance among your customers as much as possible. In other words, don’t make promises you can’t keep.

For example, let’s say that you’re a business that thrives on quick responses to customer inquiries. This is what makes you unique to your competitors, and also why your customers trust you and choose to continue doing business with you. Now, let’s say a customer’s urgent emails go unanswered for weeks. Obviously, that customer will feel that they’ve been mistreated and lied to, because you didn’t take care of your established relationship with your customers.

Established relationships are at the cornerstone of all interactions, so it’s important to analyze that relationship with your customers and build from the aspects of your business that customers praise and appreciate.

Be proactive, not reactive

If you only take away one thing from this article, then listen up: Don’t let customer service disasters back you into a corner. Managing customer satisfaction depends on the hard work of multiple people taking on many different responsibilities. These people should be specially trained in handling and responding to customer service situations, and should conduct those tasks at all times – not just when a problem arises.

Develop a consistent system for analyzing and responding to customer reviews, comments and complaints. This allows you to be proactive in your ability to address these complaints, and they will appreciate your ability to respond quickly and efficiently. Remember, it’s important to respond publicly to negative reviews by providing consolation and explaining the situation, BUT that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also respond to positive reviews.

Know customer feedback before anyone else

Online reputation management is becoming more and more crucial, as consumers are becoming more dependent on online reviews of companies that they are considering doing business with. When it comes to decisionmaking, you’d be surprised how well a review from a stranger on the internet compares to comments and recommendations from friends and peers. The internet can be your best friend. However, if your online reputation is not monitored and controlled correctly, then it can also be your worst enemy.

Developing an efficient process of measuring customer satisfaction through feedback is the key to assuring that no customer complaint is heard by anyone before the person that needs to hear it the most: you. Once you have an effective process that matches your workflow, you’ll notice that customer service disasters are much less common. Even if a major customer complaint does fall through the cracks onto the web, you are much more prepared to deal with the fallout than before.

Seem like a lot of work? There are tools out there that can actually help ease the process of online reputation management. My company, RepuGen, is one tool that can actually automate the reputation management process for you.

Treat every experience as a lesson

No customer experience is 100% negative. The key to maintaining effective customer relationships and preventing disasters is learning from the mistakes that you do make, as well as keeping record of those mistakes to include in your crisis management plans. All a customer needs is to know that they’re being heard, and that involves customer satisfaction measurement and relationship building.

If customer services disasters are a storm, then treat the above advice as your roof. Take control of your reputation and don’t let any bad situation get the best of you.

Ajay Prasad is the founder and CEO of RepuGen.