Don't Let Your Customers Drift Away
Sagi Chaitas, Consultant
November 29th | 2011 By
“Do you have a good hotel recommendation in York?” asked one of my best friends this morning. “Nah, “ I replied, as my experience from our stay last year was pretty lackluster. During a one-day stopover, I booked a room late in the afternoon at a quaint hotel. We checked-in, dropped our luggage in the room and went for a walk in the city. Upon our return later that night, we noticed a strange and unpleasant smell coming from the bathroom. But we were tired and had an early wake up call the next morning so we didn’t have the will to complain; instead we shut the bathroom door and went to bed. This is how we “resolved” the smell issue. We woke the next morning, checked out and went on driving towards Scotland. None of the checkout staff asked if we were happy with our stay and we did not bother mentioning the unpleasant smell.
Why am I telling you this? It’s because here lays one of the biggest challenges for many companies as they attempt to address usability issues with their products. Many managers believe analysing user support calls will yield the usability issues facing their users and then they’ll fix them.
Sounds reasonable? It is natural to think so. The data is available as most companies keep support call logs so all you need is smart analysis. With minimal effort, you can get a big list of usability issues to resolve. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The problem with such an approach is that many users do not provide accurate feedback or any at all (as in my example above). People often think complaining is inconvenient and are skeptical as to the service they’ll receive after doing so. But, as a company, the fact that a customer does not log a complaint does not necessarily equal satisfaction. Your customers might be resolving their problem the same way we did – hiding it or ignoring it. Slowly but steadily those dissatisfied customers may drift away until they are gone forever. It’s the users who do not renew contracts or upgrade to the latest version and when you find out it’s usually too late. Support analysis will give you valuable data insight and knowledge but will not paint the full picture of consumer sentiment around your product or service.
Your overall customer base can be placed into three buckets:
- Customers who absolutely adore your offering and care about providing feedback, good or bad. They write add-ons, blog about you and praise your brand publicly. You usually get a lot of information from them with little effort.
- Potential users who are not your customers. You attempt to grow your user pool by acquisition strategies but certain people are just out of your focus, which is fine. You might, however, be surprised to learn that some were a customer at one point.
- And then there are your silent customers. They simply use your product or service without giving away too much information. The majority of your customers will comprise this group and are the most likely to drift away without you even noticing until it is too late.
Coming from the world of support and user services, I know how important it is for users to provide input and even I did not file a complaint. Plumbing issues can occur in any hotel and it could have resided in my memory as a “great little hotel that upgraded us to a magnificent suite after we told them about the odor problem.” Instead it’s the hotel I did not recommend to my friend.
So, what should the hotel have done to keep me a happy customer? What should you do to prevent users from drifting away? First and foremost, acknowledge user support and services as one of the organisation’s most important activities. This is how customers see you and is a major way for them to establish a positive opinion about your brand.
When you put your mind to it, you can develop practical steps to ensure the following:
- Make it easy for customers to provide input, whether positive or negative. A good example is “Love Film” DVD rentals service (owned by Amazon). When “Love Film” sends a DVD, a customer will also receive a pre-paid return envelope and feedback form already populated with comments / problems commonly reported by other users. Instead of having to freehand, “This DVD is scratched”, a user simply has to check the box.
- When you do receive a user comment, show it’s important to you. Make the user feel you have taken their feedback to heart and provide fast, courteous and impeccable service. Apologise and compensate!
- Most importantly, be proactive. Do research. Perform user testing of your products not only before releasing them but also over time because circumstances can change the way your product is used (E.g. people, technology, social norms, context of use, etc.). You must invest in user research; test user journeys over and over again during the product life cycle. Do not rely on users to provide you with voluntary feedback.
The above steps serve as a way to start a conversation with customers and continue the dialogue, creating brand loyalty. Don’t let your customers drift away. Instead, create an experience that makes them recommend your nice little hotel in York to their friends.