The principle of operational excellence is to be good the first time. However, in some situations, it does not work. Processes and tools are never more perfect than the humans who design them. So, how do your customers judge you? Beyond quality, it’s the way you handle their problem that matters. Your teams must be able to
- quickly detect problems,
- solve problems by requiring the least effort from the customer.
Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. Donald Porter, V.P. British Airways
Example of problem in its resolution process
During a business trip with a rental vehicle, I took a toll highway in Toronto. Since I did not have the automated payment system, the renter took the amount (as well as a processing fee) from my credit card. In order to be reimbursed for this fee, I must have an invoice. It is not available in my online customer services. Renting a car again, I ask the employee who picks up my vehicle. He sends me back to the office next to him. The agent takes my information and tells me that the invoice is not yet available, although the amount was taken almost a month ago. He invites me to send an email in a few days to find out if the invoice has been produced.
I understand that the invoice process is not automated, and I’m not sorry for that. However, having to talk to two people, send an email (and potentially make a follow-up call) does not speed up the resolution of my problem: the processing of my expense report.
Take ownership of the issue quickly
In order to solve the problems experienced by your customers, you must first identify them. An unsupported problem gives the customer the impression of not being important. How can your teams determine if the customer is experiencing a problem?
Having empathy, understanding why the client is making a request. Few customers are making request just for fun of asking something … They have a need that they seek to fill. You must identify this need, to know if it is satisfied. Otherwise, it will turn into a problem. Unless the added value of your business is to solve the problems, you should identify the needs and respond to them as soon as possible.
Recently, Walmart announced they launched robots to detect unhappy customers. By alerting its staff of potential dissatisfaction, Walmart comes to equip employees to deal more quickly with problem situations.
Once you know that the customer has a problem, the customer expects it to be simple for him. Your internal processes, the authority limits of your employees do not interest him, he wants to solve his problem, with the minimum efforts on his side. His initial need has not been answered, despite his efforts, it’s your turn to play.
Following my example, I took several actions to try to meet my need: to have an invoice. Now it’s a problem, because I think I’ve put in too much effort. Following my email, I expect to receive the bill without additional effort on my part.
How could the problem and dissatisfaction be avoided? The employee could have sent the request email to me because he had all the information to do it.
Your customers expect a quick response to their needs. Preferably before they turn into problems. They also want the resolution to require the least amount of effort on their part.