3-part framework for tackling customer complaints

Viable Team
Viable Team, February 16, 2021

The quality of your customer experience can make or break your company. Today nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers say they consider customer experience when deciding what to purchase—and more than half of them will walk away entirely from companies that disappoint them several times in a row, according to a survey from PWC.

But while solving customer problems is critical, you can’t tackle them all at once. A data driven approach enables you to identify the customer issues most likely to negatively affect your business. You can then tackle these business-critical problems first to make an immediate impact on customer retention and satisfaction. Here’s a 3-part framework to help you figure out the customer issues most likely to derail your success.  

Part 1: Start with business impact by segment, volume, and product line

Not all customers are alike. Some of them buy frequently and repeatedly. Others consistently choose your highest-margin products. There are also occasional, low-volume purchasers. Some haven’t bought anything yet, but you hope they will. You can maximize the benefits of your customer service program by solving problems for your highest value customers first.

To start you’ll need to break out customer complaints by customer segment, prioritizing the ones that affect your most valuable customers. That means putting customer retention ahead of acquisition. Everyone loves new customers, but multiple studies over the years have argued that it costs about five times as much to attract new than to retain existing ones.

Second, look at the volume of complaints, not the intensity. It’s easy to get fixated on the “squeaky wheels” in your customer base, who lodge passionate and frequent complaints about the issues that matter most to them. But solving a problem for one person—or even a few people—isn’t going to help your business very much. You need to look at the issues that large numbers of high value customers are experiencing. Start keeping track of complaints by category and maintain a running tally of how many customers they affect. The ones at the top of the list should be your first priority.

You should also drill down into customer issues affecting specific products or business lines. The idea is to protect your most important, flagship products first. Customers may make allowances for some slip ups in newer, smaller product areas still in beta-testing, but they expect you to deliver flawlessly in core product offerings.    

Part 2: Assess issues by their impact on the user flow

Some customer problems are likely to cost you more money than others. Maximize your efforts by focusing on big ticket issues first.  

For example, if customers are having trouble during the check out process, that can directly and drastically impact sales. Your first priority should be any bottlenecks that make it harder for customers to buy your products and services. Alert your product team as soon as possible if your customer data indicates any breakdowns in the ordering process.  

Customer complaints about product features or availability should come next. If they’re not able to order the exact product they want—or if the product they receive doesn’t meet their expectations—that can have an impact on future sales. It may not be as urgent as making sure the order process runs smoothly, but it’s important.

Routine customer requests—like updating their contact details—should come last. Fixing these issues can create a better customer experience though it won’t directly affect your revenue stream.    

Part 3: Balance effort with impact

Don’t automatically tackle your hardest problems first. You may instead want to notch a few quick, easy wins that will demonstrate your commitment to meeting customer needs.  

Consider whether you can resolve an issue in stages. If you can’t immediately fix a problem, let your customers know what you’ve done so far and how you plan to address it in the future.  

Communicating with customers can be a critical part of problem resolution. Look for ways to scale up communications through updated documentation, information about product updates, and FAQs. In many cases, you can reduce complaints and inquiries just by demonstrating that you’re addressing an issue. Customers feel seen and valued when you tell them that you’re working on the problems they’ve identified.  

Link customer issues to business analytics

A real-time flow of data can help you continually update and fine-tune your customer experience.  That includes metrics about free-form text data using text mining tools.

Granular data enables you to look at metrics across every conversion point, not just the final sale, but other interactions like signing up for an email newsletter or downloading product material. It will enable you to locate obstacles in your sales process, like checkout issues, that can affect conversion rates and customer repeat metrics. Data can also uncover subtler problems like quality issues or products that go out of stock frequently, by monitoring customer service interactions and indicators like order size.  

You should regularly share data-backed insights with your product teams, alerting them to potential problems. For instance, a spike in complaints about the mobile experience might point to a product update that wasn’t mobile optimized. A product team armed with data can immediately begin working on fixable problems that have direct sales impact.

Understand what the customer wants most

Optimizing your customer experience doesn’t mean making every interaction perfect. You need to focus on the issues that matter most. By following this 3-step framework, you can create the kind of experience that turns customers into loyal advocates for your brand while keeping the costs and time burdens on your customer experience team to a minimum.

Curious how Viable can be an asset in your customer experience or product strategy? Read on or reach out for a demo.

Viable Team
Viable Team, February 16, 2021
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