8 simple steps for turning a bad IT customer experience into a great one

Before talking about how to deal with a bad IT customer experience, let’s talk a little about why you should deal with a bad IT customer experience.

Bill Gates once said that unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. And it’s true. If you provide IT customers with a channel for expressing their dissatisfaction they will complain about what’s important to them and give you the chance to fix it. It’s free consulting and it’s priceless.

It’s one of the reasons why transactional IT surveys are so effective. Transactional surveys provide a simple, timely way to capture IT customer experience feedback so that you can learn from it and act on it. Transactional IT surveys are a very good way of driving continual service improvement in IT support teams.

Another reason I like transactional IT surveys is called the service recovery paradox. The service recovery paradox is a well-studied phenomena that occurs when service recovery – the steps you take to rectify a bad experience – is done well. When service recovery is done well, the customer becomes even more satisfied than if there was no cause to complain in the first place. Every complaint becomes an opportunity to turn a bad IT customer experience into a great one,

So, when an IT customer complains, what should you do? Here are eight steps for dealing with a customer complaint effectively:

  1. Respond quickly. Ideally within 24 hours. The longer you leave it, the harder it becomes to understand what has happened, the more time the customer spends feeling disgruntled, the more people they share their feelings with and the more likely it is that they’ve escalated before you ‘ve had a chance to head trouble off at the pass.
  2. Thank the customer for telling you. And mean it! Remember that it’s far far better for them to complain to you and give you a chance to make things right, than to let their issue fester, complain to their colleagues or escalate to management.
  3. Ask the customer to explain their experience. Listen carefully to what they have to say. Concentrate on understanding what has happened and how it has made them feel.  This is not the time to let them talk while you’re thinking what you’re going to say next!
  4. Repeat back, in your own words, what you’ve heard and acknowledge their feelings. Acknowledging what they’ve said doesn’t mean you have to agree with it. It just satisfies a basic human need to be understood. This can be as simple as, “So, Jim didn’t call you when he said he would, and you stayed back late unnecessarily waiting for him to call.  I can see how that would be really frustrating.”
  5. Apologise. Give a simply apology. You don’t need to admit fault, accept blame or point the finger at others. Just apologise. A simple, “I’m sorry you’ve had a bad experience” is often all it takes.
  6. Commit. Tell the customer how you intend to make things right and/or prevent this from happening again in the future. Ask for their feedback. If the recovery action isn’t clear, just arrange a time to call them back.
  7. Act. Do whatever you’ve promised to do. Hopefully this goes without saying, but if you make a commitment to take action, make sure you do it. You won’t be leveraging the service recovery paradox if you provide the customer with a crappy experience when you’re trying to recover from a crappy experience!
  8. Confirm. When you’ve done what you said you were going to do, talk to your customer again to let them know what you’ve done and check that they’re satisfied.

To leave you with the words of Donald Porter (VP of British Airways), “Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong”.

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