Customers Rock!

A blog about customers, their experiences, and how businesses can make sure their customer experiences rock!

When Things Don’t Work: Tolerate or Leave?

Posted by Becky Carroll on May 28, 2008

Stay or go? All of us have days when things don’t go the way they should.  Companies have those days, too.  Service goes down.  Planes don’t take off when they should.  A chef doesn’t show up for work.  Someone slams a product on a blog. 

When things get tough, the company’s response to the problem can make or break their reputation – and their customer base.

The outcome often depends on what kind of relationships have already been built with customers before the problem occurs.  Has the company had a history of listening to customers and reaching out to them in their own language?  Does the company empower employees to take care of things when they go wrong?  Does the company respond to blog posts and other social media conversations?  Does the company build customer loyalty by understanding their customers, then communicating with them the way they want to be communicated with?  These are all part of a strong customer strategy which will help organizations weather the storms which inevitably come.

If a company does have strong relationships with its customers and has built a loyal customer base, customers may cry foul but will most likely tolerate the issues.  They may be very forgiving, even sticking up for the company when others are trying to pull them down.  The customer base will remain with the company – critical in slow economic times!

On the flip side, if a company is only focused on trying to squelch negative comments, if they only talk about themselves, if they forget to take the customer’s perspective – then any falter or trip can result in disaster.  Grumpy customers and their comments come raining down.  Customers spray their problems all over the place, then leave – and take others with them.

Which kind of company do you want to work for? 

If you work for the first type of company, kudos to you!  Let’s hear some of your great stories!

If you work for the second type of company, I know a good customer strategy consultant that can help you… 😉

(Thank you to Brian Solis for the inspiration on this post!  Photo credit: ccaetano)


7 Responses to “When Things Don’t Work: Tolerate or Leave?”

  1. Sometimes companies just don’t devote the resources to responding in this way. It is not that there is no interest — just no time. And yet, there is a never ending stream of meetings. Makes you wonder 😉

  2. Lee Jordan said

    It’s the old catch 22 – Companies must respond genuinely to customers. I agree with Gavin that getting all levels of a company to commit to customer service excellence in action is a big challenge. That is why I think when we as consumers find companies that “get it” we fall in love and won’t leave them for a few negative bumps in the road.

  3. Definitely thought provoking, that’s for sure. The bottom line for this is companies being able to walk the walk. They can all say how much they care about customers, how their policies are there for them, and how much customers mean to them. Alas, as human nature goes, you never know whether you mean what you say until it comes time to do it.

    Human nature becomes a critical part of a corporate personality, since companies don’t know how specific processes will work until they are in the middle of it. Reminds me of how much time and effort is spent on disaster preparedness drills, only to find out in eventual disasters that they “forgot” to consider half the real problems that existed. As it was said before, the best laid plan never survives contact with reality…

    My last blog entry deals with something similar to this: true differentiation, and finding what makes you who you are as a customer service organization… seems we are all thinking similar thoughts these days!

  4. In my marketing workshops, I’m continually amazed at the number of companies who have no formal guidelines for customer problem “recovery” or don’t empower their employees to take care of customers. As Gavin says, lack of time is a poor excuse. Focusing on a company’s response to problems is a critical investment that can head off serious brand damage.

  5. Eric Brown said

    Becky, Excellent post and associated comments. When “Things Don’t Work” companies MUST embrace such circumstances as an opportunity to communicate with their customer and enhance the customers experience. When we trip up, a sincere; “I Am Sorry, and understand how aggravated you must be” really works wonders. It certainly isn’t a short answer to all problems, however if we are simply available via a cell phone number on our website, an e mail address, a customer forum, an open company blog, and any other open dialog and transparency, when “Things Don’t Work” are excellent opportunities to create “Customer Evangelists” Oddly, it seems as though the truest of Customer Evangelists are created from a favorable experience of when “Things Went Wrong”

  6. Daycare said

    Work From Home ……

    It is amazing how many people over look this one ……

  7. I discovered that the business contacts I gained through my studies to be incredibly useful.

    As soon as I was capable, I have been a step in advance since I recognized people to contact
    and the type of position I would be most suited to.

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