86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience. Complaints can be your shortcut to reaching them.
“Customer experience is your customers’ perception of how your company treats them. These perceptions affect their behaviors, and build memories and feelings to drive their loyalty. In other words – if they like you and continue to like you, they are going to do business with you for a long time and recommend you to others.”
That’s what it says in a customer experience statistics article that I read this morning, and it ain’t untrue.
Customer experience (CX), however, exists inside people’s heads, so it’s not as easy to engineer as it may first sound. Lots of factors contribute to CX, but the good news is that you’re able to control many of them.
You have the power
If you work in customer service, for example in a contact center, you’re among the people who have the greatest powers to control CX, because you interact directly with the customers.
Still I often hear this: “But doesn’t customer service people mostly interact with customers who have difficult questions or complaints? How can that be positive?”
My answer is that you can often get tremendously positive results out of situations that are initially negative:
Negativity – an enormous potential for positivity
Customers who’ve had a positive experience with your organization are likely to remain loyal, and they’re also willing to pay more for your services (I’ll get back to that in a minute). However, they’re not especially likely to share their positive experience with others. They just quietly keep liking your organization.
Customers who’ve had a negative experience, on the other hand, are extremely likely to share their negative experience with others – many others: The article quotes research by a guy named Esteban Kolsky that proved that “13% of them will share their experience with 15 or even more” other people.
That’s why it’s important to take really good care of people who’ve had negative experiences with your organization.
Remember that those experiences are subjective: The negativity is a perceived negativity that exists inside those people’s heads, even though, objectively viewed, it could be caused by misconceptions. That’s why you need to take the negativity seriously, because to each of those customers it’s real, and it can spread like wildfire and hurt your organization’s bottom line.
There’s just one thing that makes it hard to take good care of those negative customers:
They just leave
“Customers don’t tell you they’re unhappy. In fact, only 1 in 26 unhappy customers actually complain. The rest, they just leave, Kolsky claims.”
If that’s true, can you then view the absence of negative feedback as a sign of satisfaction? No, that would be burying your head in the sand!
1 of 26 unhappy customers is your great chance
That’s why, when the 1 out of 26 unhappy customers actually calls you to complain, you have a great chance to really improve that customer’s CX.
If you help that customer and take their experience seriously by viewing it from their perspective, with empathy, there’s evidence – now it gets really interesting – that it could very well turn that customer from being a complainant into being a loyal customer. This is known as the service recovery paradox.
In some cases, the customer might even end up actively promoting the great customer experience that your organization has after all been able to provide: In those cases, the customer won’t just become part of the silent majority of satisfied customers. No, like a reborn believer that customer will preach the gospel about the great CX that people can get with your organization.
Such a reborn evangelist is worth a fortune in CX terms.
Please complain! Keep those complaints coming!
Some companies have even invited customers to complain.
They’ve done so to expose and identify faults and inconveniences. By becoming aware of them and subsequently addressing them, they could improve customers’ experiences by eliminating annoyances. At the same time, they were able to show customers that they took them seriously. That way, they were able to double the positive CX effect.
“Please complain! Keep those complaints coming!” Something to that effect is what an airline boss told customers in the 1980s. “It’ll not only help us improve and become a more customer-focused organization; it’ll also help us build an extremely loyal and positive customer base.”
The airline business has completely transformed since then, but 30-40 years ago the notion of business class had just started to become the big potential earner in the airline industry – and business class was essentially 100% based around customer experience.
That’s why the airline boss was so keen to hear about customers’ complaints.
In order to understand how airlines made business on business class back then, we can look at a parallel phenomenon today:
Crossover SUVs are a phenomenon where car manufacturers, without the usual excessive development costs, are able to create new models based on a mix between their existing ordinary cars and expensive 4WD vehicles. They’re able to sell that rehash mix at a premium price compared with their ordinary cars, because customers get a more exclusive and luxurious customer experience that’s, however, still within most people’s reach.
Once there was a similar market for a crossover between the airlines’ standard class and their exclusive and expensive first class. That’s where business class was the perfect mix – and people were willing to pay for great CX!
More for magic
Great customer experiences – not least those initially based on complaints – ensured sales of thousands and thousands of business class tickets.
Positive, loyal customers were willing to pay more for lounges and seats almost at the front of the cabin, in front of a magic curtain, where business travelers who weren’t necessarily incredibly wealthy could enjoy a glass of in-flight bubbly and a three-course menu served on real tableware.
In other words: They booked seats right where they’d get their positive experiences reconfirmed.
Today, people are still willing to pay more for magic:
86% will pay more for great customer experience
According to PWC research quoted in the article I mentioned before, “86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.”
“The more expensive the item, the more they are willing to pay … For example, customers are willing to pay a price premium of up to 13% (and as high as 18%) for luxury and indulgence services, simply by receiving a great customer experience.”
CX is most exciting business opportunity in 2020
When CX is so instrumental in achieving customer loyalty, avoiding viral negativity, and boosting revenue, it’s not surprising that companies, according to the article, name customer experience as the most exciting business opportunity in 2020.
It even beats other hot and trending activities, like content marketing, video marketing, and social media, the article claims.
That’s, however, where I think that the article (or, more likely, those companies that it quotes) has got it wrong. That claim is simply naïve, if you ask me.
Nonsense, you can’t silo CX
As I mentioned in the beginning, CX is all about engineering people’s perceptions. However, people are smart enough to know if a contact center’s friendly customer service is just a glossy lick of paint upon an otherwise poorly run organization.
That’s why you’ve got to treat CX holistically and include it in every activity. That of course includes your organization’s content marketing, your videos, your social media presence, etc. as well as the organization’s people, places, products, and services.
To claim that you can view CX as a separate activity that you can work with in isolation, measure separately, and have separate expectations for in 2020, is to me a load of nonsense.
That being said, I’ll gladly repeat myself from the beginning of this post, because some people do have special powers: “If you work in customer service, for example in a contact center, you’re among the people who have the greatest powers to control CX, because you interact directly with the customers.”
Use that power pack
I’ve met many customer service people during my time at Zylinc, and you could well be one of them, considering that you’re reading this.
You folks do some invaluable and great work out there. Be aware of your powers, use that power pack, and keep being great.
However, you should also acknowledge the fact that your powers are part of a greater whole. After all, that’s how your customers experience it, because that “greater whole” is the customer experience.
You customer service people have experience with customers. That means that you have some of the very best input when it comes to CX.
So, don’t be afraid to look around you and suggest improvements to the way that your organization acts (or doesn’t act …), if your experience with customers tells you that customer experience could be improved.
Weird and promising
I’ll end this post with something weird, because the article that I’ve referred to in this post is interesting in more than one way:
For example, it has a publication date of 18 November 2019, but if you look at the many comments that follow the article, some of them are almost four years old. Now, how’s that?
Perhaps it’s an old article that the author re-writes every year, with the coming year’s fresh trends and predictions. That could explain both the fresh date and the old comments.
Even if the author has taken recycling to a new level, it doesn’t detract from the article’s most important and promising CX theme:
That it always pays to treat your fellow human beings with respect and empathy!
Morten Müller is Documentation & Localization Manager at Zylinc’s HQ in Denmark.