A former boss of mine used to preach that there is no such thing as a problem that can’t be fixed in some way. It may require more work, more ingenuity or more money, but there is always a way to take a problem and make it better. Even if the direct problem doesn’t have a solution, the situation could be improved through guarantees of future changes, discounts or some other creative resolution to make a client or customer happy, even if their chief complaint is no longer reparable.
Generally, these approaches work best when taking a negative situation and turning it into a neutral situation. However, sometimes the right customer service approach can end up as a positive for the customer, turning a failure into a win that can ultimately improve a business relationship. I recently encountered one of these situations in a scenario that may be relatable for many: I ordered something on Amazon with two-day shipping, and after two days it hadn’t arrived. I reached out to Amazon customer service – not to complain, but to make sure that there weren’t any problems with my purchase or its shipment. I was met with the following response (the less relevant parts have been omitted).
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Tushar did everything right in this interaction.
- He empathized. I really felt like he related to my situation and genuinely cared about resolving it. Whether he really did or whether he did a good job giving the impression that he did is irrelevant to me after the fact. The point is that he made me feel like my concerns were being heard, considered and acted upon.
- He quickly identified the problem, he explained it to me, and then told me the next steps that Amazon would take: extend my Amazon Prime membership, escalate the shipping issue to avoid future problems, and give me my order for free.
- He was empowered by the organization to take those actions. Being a good problem solver or an empathetic representative doesn’t accomplish much if the organization doesn’t give employees the opportunities to take the initiative and help the customer. Amazon here exemplified key traits of successful companies: hire good people, empower them to do their jobs well, and then get out of the way and let them do it.
Realistically, I would have been satisfied with any one of these three steps that Tushar took to sort out my concerns. It wasn’t at all necessary for him to take all of these actions to fix the issue and bring my relationship with Amazon back to a level field. However, by going above and beyond to reconcile this minor shipping problem, Amazon was able to improve our relationship and foster additional goodwill moving forward.
As human beings, we have cognitive biases and mental scripts (expectations of the series of actions and reactions that will occur in a given situation) that apply to our evaluation and experience with brands. What makes this Amazon experience stand out and increase my brand loyalty to Amazon is the unexpected level of service provided, a level that transcended my existing mental script for service recovery. Amazon not only provided me with a standout customer service experience, but also motivated me to share my highly positive brand experience with others. I wonder what the equivalent number of ad impressions would be for that?
Taking this approach is possible in all areas of business. Whether it is with internal or external customers, one should always be on the lookout for opportunities to improve relationships and resolve issues in ways that engender long-term business growth and relationship development.