I once had a very smart woman tell me “If you don't close the loop with your customer, it doesn’t count.” At first, I wasn’t so sure about that. After all, I had a great conversation and learned a lot. We made a real connection. But my customer didn’t know what I learned or what did with the information from our conversation. My team didn’t know anything about the conversation. And I had not asked permission to follow up with that customer if I had further questions. I may have had a conversation but I did not have a real, meaningful customer interaction.
A fruitful customer interaction must include active listening, of course! But it also has to include reflection, inclusion, and follow-up to be meaningful. Conversations with your customers can offer deep learning—but only if you make them part of a three-part process. Each part requires that you, the product/service team member, move that information through a process so that is it heard, made actionable, and finally given back to the customer to close the loop. What was the last customer interaction you had? Did you take it through all three steps?
Step 1: Think about how you engaged your customer. Did you reach out to them or did they reach out to you? Was it initiated because your customer had an issue or because you were checking in? What questions did they ask? What questions did you ask? What did you learn about your product or service or customer that you didn’t know before?
Step 2: Think about what you did with that information. How did you process it? Did you share it with members of your team? Did you check to see if your marketing/sales team was hearing similar things? Did that conversation lead to further discussions/actions?
Step 3: Think about how you closed the loop with that customer. Did you reach back out to them once you processed the conversation? Did you let them know what you learned from them? Did you ask if you would be able to contact them for their feedback again? Did you thank them for taking their time to provide their insight?
The hard truth is that for many of us, especially those in management positions, is that we mainly (or sometimes only) deal with customers when things go wrong. Solving the problem, often with an apology and a refund, should not be the only goal. While all customers are gems, not all are jewels and dealing with the diamonds-in-the-ruff can be trying at times. But they also offer some of the best clues as to why your product/service may not be hitting the mark. And, I have found, they are often the easiest ones to win back over to your side when you engage them. Why?
· They took the initiative to reach out. That means this is important to them. Really important. (When was the last time you took your time to reach out to a company whose services was less than stellar?) So they are invested. They have made the decision to use your product/service. They have actually tried to use your product/service in the real world. They did not have a good experience but they want to or they never would have purchased it in the first place.
· They will tell others—either way. If you engage them in a real and meaningful conversation (remember, that means three steps), they will let others know that YOUR company didn’t just try to solve the problem but was really interested in understanding the experience fully, and followed up so that customer know how their information made it back to the product team and into the product. If you don’t, be sure to watch your social media comments and be prepared for damage control.
As 2018 begins, resolve to make your customer interactions meaningful experiences that go beyond a sympathetic ear and a refund. Engage. Process. Follow-up. And have a great 2018!
If you would like to better engage your customers (or if you would like to help your team better engage with your customers), give EyeLevel a call.