Customer advocates are the holy grail of customer management. These much sought after and highly valuable customers attract new business through word of mouth recommendations without the need for a reward, defend reputations publicly and act as a positive force within a customer base.
However, as with all stories of good and evil, there are also dark forces at work. Highly toxic customers, who endanger your business and damage your reputation through negative word of mouth recommendations, I call these customers smiling assassins!
But how do we identify smiling assassins and more importantly, what can we do about them? To help you spot assassins, consider an experience where you didn’t receive the level of service you expected or paid for, e.g. at a restaurant or a hotel. Did you complain? Or did you simply smile and say “yes fine” when asked “was everything ok?“, rather than “no it was bloody awful and I’m not coming back because of …!“ If so, you are a smiling assassin, especially if you create negative word of mouth.
The majority of consumers are smiling assassins. They don’t set out to be, often they want to voice an opinion or provide feedback but there is no method for doing this. Others don’t want to engage in a dialogue that could lead to embarrassment or confrontation so they simply smile, say “yes fine” and walk away, forever. Businesses also make it difficult for customers and employees to facilitate feedback. They see complaints as a nuisance or a distraction; if we ignore them they’ll go away one contact centre manager told me recently. This “burying of heads in the sand” approach and the ignorance of real customer insight is extremely dangerous and results in many missed opportunity to improve services for all customers.
The answer to finding and converting assassins is to take the emotion out of the feedback process and to make it simple. Encouraging customers to be critical is free consultancy, but don’t ask them to complete lengthy questionnaires or send them to a website. Be sincere, simple and make the communication work for them. Remember that you are using their time and their thoughts. Capture their issues, concerns and comments, then act upon them. If you can recover the assassin they are highly likely to become an advocate; then rather than tell others how bad you are, they will tell them how you listen, respond and actually care. If you don’t look after your customers, somebody else will, and evil will prevail!
Check out some recent research here from the MoJ that demonstrates just how prevalent this problem is amongst clients of legal firms during the next few days.