We need to talk about the tension between customers and businesses because we’re at the breaking point.
- People need stuff. Luckily, businesses provide stuff.
- Businesses need to sell stuff. Luckily, people buy stuff.
- So, why is the whole thing generally so awful?
The problem is that neither side trusts the other anymore. In truth, there are good reasons why. However, it does not have to be this way and a simple, small change, could be all we need to turn things around.
Let’s spend today exploring the tension between customers and businesses, and talk about one way we can make things just a little better.
Customers are angry
Customers, after years of neglect and abuse, are angry.
- They’ve grown tired of needing to escalate so many situations.
- They’re tired of being placed on hold.
- They’re tired of wasting so much time during the day dealing with problems they didn’t ask for.
- They’re tired of having to replace all of the products built with planned obsolescence.
- They’re tired of service that doesn’t adequately justify how much was spent.
Because customers are tired, frustrated, and angry, they lash out when things go wrong. It’s not just the single thing that went wrong, it’s the accumulation of years of things going wrong.
Businesses are stressed out
At the same time, businesses are stressed out.
- They are constantly asked to adapt to new technologies and consumer preferences.
- Many have had a hard time adjusting to the pandemic or surviving the routine boom-and-bust cycles of capitalism.
- Rents are up.
- Costs are up.
- Worst of all, frontline workers are asked to do more while being paid less, while being the primary recipients of every Karen and Kevin that doesn’t want to wear a mask indoors.
So as businesses worry about keeping the lights on, they cut back and tighten their grip. They spend less on customer experience. They underinvest in the relationship with the customer. They underpay their staff.
Times are tough.
The truth is that both customers and businesses are suffering from a crisis of uncertainty.
- When customers are uncertain that their problem will be solved or how long it will take to get their problem resolved, it makes them angry.
- When employees are uncertain about whether or not they will be able to meet their living expenses, they become stressed out and will have less patience to deal with problems.
- When businesses are uncertain about how they will handle problems they tend to be more cautious and try to protect cash reserves at all costs.
The world is complex and there is no simple answer that will resolve all of this uncertainty. However, we can try.
Here’s my suggestion…
Brand + Transparency = Brandsparency
A company that REALLY understands its Brand knows exactly how it will pay its people, how it will handle customer problems, what impact it will have on the environment, and more…
A company with a well-conceived Brand will be really clear and open about every aspect of how they function. Consider this…
“I’d like to speak to the manager”
What happens when someone asks to speak to the manager? Typically, someone with a higher salary and more authority will handle the problem in one of three ways:
- Comprehensively handle the issue
- Give a discount and refund
- Push back
The whole thing wastes time and breeds more uncertainty. What if instead of having to speak to the manager, everyone in the organization was empowered by the Brand to handle it with those same three actions?
What if front-line team members calmly let the customer know that they had nothing to worry about and no manager would be necessary? Instead, they calmly inform the customer of how they handle problems. It starts by trying to resolve the issue, and if they are unable to fix it, they are empowered by the company to give a discount or refund, just like a manager would.
Or what if what the customer wanted was unreasonable, wouldn’t it be nice to reduce the employee’s uncertainty by empowering them to invite the unruly customer to leave with the full backing and endorsement of the Brand?
If you are in the customer service business, this post was written for you.
- Where are you creating uncertainty for your customers and your team members?
- How much time are you wasting, what frustration are you causing, and what money are you losing by not reducing this uncertainty with your Brand?
Take the time to get clear on what your Brand stands for and empower every single person in the company to communicate that position. Your customers will appreciate knowing exactly how you will handle things. Your team members will appreciate knowing exactly what is within their power to handle and enforce. Your managers will appreciate the reduction in escalations so they can spend their time elsewhere.
Brand is how you proactively answer questions and handle issues. Go handle that, and if you need help, contact me.