“All happy customers are alike; each unhappy customer is unhappy in its own way.”
Okay, that wasn’t really my quote – I’m paraphrasing Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, where he wrote “all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But it does fit at least some companies’ experiences.
This is especially true with a client we’re working with right now. The happy customers sound so similar that it’s almost boring. Almost. They like the people; the product does what it’s supposed to do, and customer expectations are set appropriately. Unfortunately, that description only applies to half their customers.
The other half are unhappy for so many reasons that it can seem overwhelming. Sales overpromises. The product is confusing, or perhaps setup incorrectly. Training is underwhelming. Support is nonresponsive. Account management doesn’t take ownership. The staff turns over frequently, leaving customers to always deal with new people.
Unfortunately, this isn’t unusual, especially when a company is growing quickly like our client. It’s a classic case of growth outstripping a company’s management infrastructure.
In a stable company, management is on top of operations. The CX measurement infrastructure alerts leadership of problems, the company reacts, and things get better. (That’s a bit simplistic, but you get the idea.)
But when a company grows beyond its infrastructure, management can’t stay in front of customer experience problems. You can’t find enough good employees, so you hire any warm body just to fill a spot. There aren’t enough experienced people to solve customer needs, so junior employees have to figure things out for themselves. To drive growth, new products are pushed out before overstretched teams can fully learn about them, adding additional customer pain. As new customers come onboard, account management teams get stretched across too many accounts, leading to a loss of connection. When that connection is lost, it’s tougher to forgive all the other issues.
While being in a growing company is exciting, CX Whack-A-Mole isn’t. When your clients get burnt too often, it’s tough to re-earn that emotional connection required for loyalty. So, what’s to be done? A few ideas.
1. Give Ops some love – before problems happen. Ensure you have a good operations structure. You may be thinking, “Ops in a CX blog? What’s that about?” But Operations is the foundation upon which your customer experience sits. All too often there’s a wall between CX and Ops, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Spending time with them before the Whack-A-Mole starts can help you become partners, ideally working together to prevent problems in the first place. If you’re finding that the causes of your unhappy customers are unique, odds are Operations has become overwhelmed.
2. Nurture your relationships. Do your clients feel the love? While it’s tempting to ask your best account managers to take on more clients, that’s doing everybody a disservice. Solid account management buys you time while you’re whacking your moles. Avoid transitioning your account managers while issues are happening on an account. Effectiveness and Ease matter, but Emotions matter the most. Account management builds that emotional connection needed to sustain clients when problems happen.
3. Slow down new product development. This is the hardest message of all. Growth is addictive, and new products fuel the growth. What fuels that growth even more, though, is happy customers willing to buy your new products. Clients are unlikely to line up for your new product when they can’t get the existing ones to work. Reallocate your new product teams to find and fix the source of your moles before trying to introduce new products.
I realize this last idea is a hard message and not one that will bring you many friends in your company. It’ll make friends with your customers, though, and isn’t that what really counts?