Are You About to Sever the Final Thread Your Dissatisfied Customer Is Clinging To?

Published: Apr 02, 2018
Author: Cary Cusumano

I wrote nearly a year ago about a new car purchase and service experience that ultimately led me to never set foot in a local dealership again (To Sell or to Serve).  There was absolutely nothing wrong with the product – I still drive and love the car I purchased more than five years ago. 

When my car required servicing I returned to the dealership.  The service itself, while not meeting my expectations, wasn’t necessarily terrible.  What really turned me from  a dissatisfied customer to a disappointed one was the recognition that the dealership didn’t care enough to respond to my feedback.  After every service interval, I received a survey asking for my feedback.  And I responded to every survey.  As a customer experience professional, I also made sure to include comments explaining the reasons why I didn’t rate them at the top of the scale.  I even asked them to call me so I could provide constructive feedback, human-to-human.

The call never came.

Nor did an email response.  Nor any kind of acknowledgement that I had taken the time to answer their questions to help them improve the experience.  In the end, the survey was about collecting a number, not understanding feedback from a dissatisfied customer and taking appropriate actions to improve the experience.

One of the fundamental elements of an effective Voice of the Customer program is the need to “close the loop.”  When a customer makes the effort to respond to your questions, you owe it to him or her to, at a minimum, acknowledge they took the time to share their opinion and to thank them.  Anything short of that amounts to talking to the customer but not listening. 

As customer experience expert and author, Blake Morgan says, “…it’s actually in the listening that the value is presented to the customer.  It’s not in the talking.”  And when you truly try to listen to the sincere feedback your customers want to share with you, you can heal damaged relationships just like my colleague Erin Van Remortel described in an earlier blog.

While it may not be practical or even necessary to acknowledge every survey returned by customers – someone who scored you a 10 with no written comments probably doesn’t want another email from you in their basket – you should establish a standard by which you will close the loop with customers who take the time to respond to your surveys.  For example:

  • When the customer scores your product or service below a predetermined threshold
  • Any time you have offered some incentive for them to respond to the survey
  • Whenever the customer invests the additional time to write meaningful comments – positive or negative – especially if the customer specifically asks you to contact them

In either case, your response should be personal – “dear valued customer” is not personal – and should come from a real person, not an automated, “no-reply” email address, and include contact information for them to reach you directly.

Are you surveying customers because you want to know how to make their experience better?  Or are you surveying them because you have a Net Promoter Score metric on your dashboard that needs to be filled in each month?  Believe it or not, even if you can’t fix every problem your dissatisfied customers bring to you, just knowing you’ve heard them goes a long way toward earning trust.  Close the loop with them and weave the broken threads of your relationship into a strong cord that secures their loyalty to you.

A 2016 CX Impact Award winner from the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA), Cary Cusumano is a Customer Experience and Design Thinking practitioner in Verizon Enterprise Solutions. He is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP) and Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.