People Metrics’ 2010 Most Engaged Customers  study uncovered two methods for winning lasting Customer Trust. This matters because Customer Trust influences Customer Engagement, the customer feedback metric that has been closely tied to higher profits, stock values, and ROI over the long-term. Without Customer Engagement, customers are more likely to “jump ship” for any company that can name a lower price. The first method of achieving Customer Trust is fairly obvious: provide flawless service. If you never give customers a reason to doubt you, over time you will earn their trust. Fortunately, you don’t have to be perfect to win customer trust–the other option is to recover quickly from service failures. Positive problem resolution is the best way to build engagement and trust once a service failure has happened. Those companies who conduct customer satisfaction experience research can maximize trust by mapping out customer touch points where problems tend to occur.

The study analyzed more than  customer ratings of 67 different brands, with the goal of discovering what winning companies do to engage their clients. We discovered that many of the top brands never give customers a reason to doubt them–they provide faultless service engagesmart year in and year out. “Consistently excellent service delivery is an essential ingredient to create high levels of Customer Engagement,” the MEC report concludes. Overall, PeopleMetrics found that just 29% of customers who encountered a problem are engaged, compared to 56% engagement among customers who have never had a problem.

However, the MEC results also show that organizations can build trust by recovering quickly from service failures. In fact, customers with the highest engagement levels are often those who have experienced a problem with a certain brand, and had a positive experience with problem resolution. When good problem handling is in place, 48% of customers who have had a problem are engaged with the brand, compared with just 31% of customers who encountered poor problem handling. In this sense, service failure is an opportunity for companies to build trust. Trust is earned when a brand is put to the test.

James Joyce called mistakes the “portals of discovery,” a designation that applies to the business world as well as the literary one. The silver lining of service failures is that they shine light on aspects of your business that must change in order to increase Customer Engagement. To notice and fix areas of common service slip-ups, a systematic service recovery and complaints handling process is key. A Customer Engagement strategy should also include a customer feedback program that continuously reaches out to customers to learn of and respond to issues, all in real-time so as to actually affect the customer’s experience. Finally, we argue that a strong Customer Engagement strategy should include tools front-line employees can use to quickly turn around customer problems.

In the end, although no one likes to make mistakes, the good news is that once you’ve turned things around and earned a customers’ trust, he or she isn’t likely to forget any time soon. As one Dell customer explained in this year’s MEC study,”When I had a problem with one of their products they worked overtime to get my situation handled. I will never forget their efforts and accomplishments.” Customers remember both negative and positive problem resolution for a long time–often years. Considering the long-term value of engaged customers, it’s crucial to enlist partners and tools to help you recover from service failures quickly and effectively, in order to build customer trust.


By Gilbert

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