Disaster Alert: Proactive Customer Service to the Rescue

by Jeannie Walters

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The path is always a bit rocky

You’ve been climbing that mountain of business growth, and making great progress! But even the most sure-footed of us will slip. When you lose your footing, and you will, there is bound to be falling debris. Do you warn those on the path below of the error, or do wait to see if anyone gets hurt then apologize? The heads-up is a humbling experience, for sure! But if you don’t fess up, your team and admirers will lose trust in you and find another path. You need to warn them of the danger, and sometimes swoop in for a possible rescue- just in case!

So regardless of how hard you work at delivering a great experience, you are human. Your team is human. There will most definitely be mistakes that affect the experience. But fear not! Just because things didn’t go as planned does not mean it has to chalk up to a bad experience overall.

The light seems brighter after a dark moment

A bad experience is sure to stick in your customer’s memory. In fact, a bad experience is 12 times more likely to get stored in the brain than a good one. So once the experience has been tarnished, you’ve got their attention. What are you going to do with it?

Here is your opportunity to create a memorable experience, going out on a higher note. Best Buy has done just that by turning a potential bad experience into a great one.

I recently purchased a new computer from Best Buy. It was a seamless and satisfying but not really memorable in-store pickup shopping experience. Later, they sent me a $50 savings code as a thank you. I’m not sure if I “had it coming” but I wasn’t expecting it. Sweet!

proactive customer service

But they made a mistake. The code was activated for $10 instead of $50. Bummer! But before I could even find this out on my own, I received this second email:

proactive customer service

Imagine my surprise. I did not expect the $50 code in the first place! And Best Buy owned up to their mistake, ending the experience not just by correcting it, but by exceeding my expectations. This is known as the peak-end rule, and it is the recipe for success when an experience goes awry.

How many other retailers would have waited for a complaint? How many would have tried to activate the remaining $40 in an attempt to avoid embarrassment without a word, hoping I wouldn’t notice? Best Buy took the “if” out of the equation and immediately just did what was right.

This experience has earned its place as our December 2013 micromoment of the Month by doing these simple but essential things:

  • Saying thank you. A simple thank you can go a long way, especially after a large purchase. In this case, it took the form of a $50 gift. Awesome!
  • Proactive customer service. Best Buy corrected the mistake as soon as it was discovered, rather than wait for a complaint they may or may not ever receive. They saw that a bad experience was imminent, and got ahead of it. “We lost our footing. Look out below!”
  • Exceeding expectations. Best Buy made up for the tarnished experience by sending me off with more than I had coming. They promised a good experience, and when they realized it did not go as planned, they created a better one.

We have a runner-up!

Here is another perfect example of proactive customer service. Klout realized they goofed, and admitted to the mistake. Instead of leaving our community manager Anne Reuss scratching her head and wondering if she had missed something, they sent this friendly note:

proactive customer service

Though they could have been more mindful of the merge tags, Klout took responsibility for the mistake and did their best to prevent confusion.

As I said before, there will always be blunders in the experience you provide. But remember these things and you will shine through them with memorable experiences:

  • Forgive yourself and your team. We all make mistakes, but how we address and correct them can make the good experiences unforgettable.
  • Apologize. Admit that you have made a mistake. Don’t blame it on a glitch or “the other department.” Your customers are human, and now is the time to show them you are too.
  • End on a high note. Bad experiences are proven to get more attention. Now that the spotlight is on you, you have the perfect opportunity to be remembered for the way you address and correct the mistake. Heroes are never made in the absence of a crisis!

What bad experiences have you been rescued from? Let us know how they made it memorable. We’d love to hear your story!

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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