Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamJune 28, 2019
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10min2330

金継ぎ

This might sound like a strange question in the context of financial services, but have you ever heard of Kintsugi?

No matter if not because I’m about to explain exactly what it is – and why it matters to your complaints handling team. For those who haven’t come across it before, Kintsugi is the art of repairing broken pottery. Fixing broken pots and dishes might not sound that impressive (or seem to have much bearing on complaints and Customer Experience) but the philosophy behind it is both fascinating and highly useful.

In Kintsugi (which translates as ‘golden joinery’), the broken pottery is repaired in a specific way. The pieces are held together with a special mix of lacquer and gold powder – creating a golden seam that serves not to hide the break but highlight it. The piece of pottery is not as good as new; it wears its golden scars with pride.

New beauty: The art of Japanese Kintsugi can be applied to complaint handling

They are now part of its history and something to be cherished. Whatever caused the item to break has, instead of rendering it useless, helped it become more beautiful. For people used to seeing broken things as being at the end of their journey, it’s an interesting concept to get used to.

However, it’s a philosophy that I think can have a profound effect on how you approach complaint handling – and the entire Customer Experience.

The problem with product-driven CX

Delivering great CX is a challenging task for any company – especially in the complex world of financial services. There are so many different elements that need to come together to keep each customer happy. Some of them you won’t even have control over. After all, how can you account for the things going on in a person’s day that will influence how they interact with you?

Thankfully, overall, customers are incredibly happy with the products and services they receive from companies. The UK banking sector is above the all-sector average for customer satisfaction, so it must be getting something right.

The problem arrives when customers aren’t happy with the products and services they receive. Too many businesses build their CX around the core product. So, when this doesn’t suit the customer’s needs or doesn’t work out as planned, the company isn’t sure how to handle the situation. Sure, it has a complaints handling team, but when the sole focus of CX is on delivering a great product, there’s little any agent can do to add value or retain the customer.

The importance of repairing relationships and building customer trust

When businesses lose a customer, there’s a tendency to label each case as a ‘lost cause’. This is especially the case when a product or service hasn’t lived up to expectations because companies don’t want to be faced with their failures. I don’t mean this as a harsh criticism; it makes sense when an organisation’s outward-facing reputation is built on the success of its offering.

Customers want to purchase from a company they can trust to deliver the goods. However, businesses have less and less control over how their brand is perceived. When a customer has a poor experience, they’re easily able to post reviews online detailing exactly went wrong. There’s no way for companies to prevent this – other than to deliver the best possible CX.

Review regret: Only the best possible CX will prevent online reviews from negatively impacting your brand

In situations where customers are already unhappy, aftercare and complaint handling become vital. Too many customer relationships break down because there’s no effective way to resolve issues and mend the trust between consumer and company. This is where the following philosophy of Kintsugi could make all the difference – both to the retention and acquisition of your customers.

How to apply Kintsugi to complaints handling

As I’ve mentioned already, there are so many elements that go into creating great CX. You can’t deliver the perfect experience 100 percent of the time – it’s simply impossible. However, when things don’t go completely according to plan, you can pick up the pieces and mould them into something new; something stronger.

If you apply the idea of Kintsugi to your CX, you can change the way you look at the customer journey. Instead of hiding the issues customers have had with your products and services (again, you can’t), focus on mending these relationships through complaint resolution to make sure people come away with a positive experience of your overall business.

Resolve to evolve: Mending customer relationships is essential to positive experiences 

By accepting that the customer journey doesn’t always go smoothly, you can transform the perception of your CX and your brand. When people look at a Kintsugi bowl, they don’t focus on how it broke – they see a new, more beautiful object that has taken the place of the original. The same will be true of your CX if you have an effective complaints-handling operation in place to rebuild trust with customers who have had a less than positive experience up until the point they complain.

Creating an opportunity with complaints

If you can make golden repairs on your customer relationships, you can turn negative experiences into positive ones. As well as making those consumers more loyal to you, the approach means people are far more likely to become brand ambassadors – helping you attract new business. This is why complaints are an opportunity for financial services companies, rather than a source of shame.

To make the most of this opportunity, however, companies need to know that their complaints handling teams are operating as effectively and efficiently as possible. For an unhappy customer trying to resolve a complaint, the frustration of having to do something as simple as repeating their details and queries to several different agents is magnified hugely. It’s just one example of how poor complaints handling can exacerbate a negative CX and highlights the need for companies to get the basics right.

When a customer gets in touch to talk about their complaint (whether over the phone or online), they have to be given the confidence that their issue will be resolved as best as possible – regardless of who they talk to. This means making sure that every agent has access to up-to-date information on each case, allowing them to make progress, support the customer and take important steps towards improving the overall CX received.

The way you approach complaints in your company will make a huge difference to how successful you are. If you apply the ideals of Kintsugi to complaint handling, you’ll shift the whole focus of your CX – and your business will be better for it. However, having the right mindset is just one piece of the puzzle.

金継ぎ

 


Martin EllinghamMartin EllinghamMay 18, 2017
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15min651

The internet is big business. Of course, you knew that already. Most companies in 2017 choose to have an internet presence and to use appropriate keywords to attract footfall to their websites where they can hook customers with special online deals. That’s good news. But do you really know the extent of the internet’s reach and have you fully appreciated what that could mean in terms of customer service?

In 2016, internetlivestats.com published a report showing the number of internet users across the Globe. In the UK, 92.6% are engaging with online apps and services; over 60 million people. In the US, Canada and Ireland the percentages are in the 80s, with South Africa coming in around 50% (in terms of population that’s still 28+ million users).

Also in 2016, smartinsights.com published a report on the use of social media. An incredible 1.59 billion people were engaging with Facebook, 320 million with Twitter and over 100 million people were on LinkedIn.

Thousands of millions of people are using social media to keep in touch with friends and family, to grow their social network, sell products, influence others or be influenced by recommendations, and of course, complain about poor service. Everywhere you go, from buses and trains to (annoyingly) restaurants, it’s increasingly common to see people connected to Facebook or Twitter via mobile devices.

Before the rise of social media, if your train was delayed, your bus driver was rude or the service was terrible in a restaurant, you had a few different options: you could complain there and then, face to face; you could ring the company later and attempt to select the right options to join a queue; or you could write a letter and wait patiently for a response.

All these pathways to customer service are still valid but they all come with their own problems. Face to face conversations can be confrontational and in a society where we increasingly communicate via screens and keyboards, confrontation is something many people shy away from. All other methods require waiting – and the longer you wait, the more time your anger has to build up.

For many people, it’s not even a conscious decision. A browse through Facebook or Twitter reveals a world where even the smallest everyday occurrences are shared publicly. Much of it is largely unimportant but we’re now living in a society where it’s normal to let your social network know what you’re up to and therefore any interaction with a business (good or bad) is likely to be seen by hundreds of people at a time.

The good news is, whilst some will share immediately on their own social media accounts, many will still choose to contact the company direct – via social media – to share their impressions, concerns and anger (and of course to solicit an appropriate outcome). There is ample opportunity, with effective social media management, to turn those opinions around and to visibly do the right thing in a very public setting.

In May 2015, the Guardian published an article by Jo Causon, Chief Executive of the Institute of Customer Service, revealing the alarming statistic that from January 2014 to May 2015 the use of social media for complaints had increased eight-fold. Additionally, their research showed that 1 in 4 social media users had used this avenue to make a complaint between March and May 2015. When you consider how many people are connected to social media that’s a lot of complaint traffic. Now we’re a year on from the publication of that data – imagine how much further those statistics will have developed. Can you really afford to ignore the trend?

The internet has, without doubt, made the world a smaller place and it has provided amazing opportunities to communicate widely and share thoughts with millions of people. As an enterprise with ‘key stakeholders’ and ‘margins’, you really need to know what those people, your customers, are saying about you.

Let’s be clear: Social media offers a great opportunity for customers to vent their anger in real time, but it also presents an equally attractive opportunity for businesses to promote outstanding customer service. You have the perfect opportunity, with a little virtual elbow grease, to turn your critics into your advocates.

Where Does Good Online Complaint Management Start?

That’s a tricky question. To succeed – to have an online presence that is proactive, customer centric and appropriate – you need to target several aspects of your business. You need to make sure you have adequate software to capture complaints and analyse data. You need to make sure you have policies and procedures in place for colleagues to exemplify good practice. You need to make sure that all levels of the business, from the boardroom to the grass roots, are engaged and positive about what you need to achieve. Reward colleagues who demonstrate the best you have to offer.

One thing to remember: there’s no need to panic. Complaints aren’t new. You already know how to provide great customer service and there’s no reason why that can’t translate into great social media engagement.

Let’s start by looking at employee engagement. It’s all very well to tell your customer service team that they need to start responding to customers on social media, but remember this is a very public format and they need to be equipped with the right skills to do so. A badly written social media response or a negative tone may do as much damage, if not more, as not responding in the first place. Fortunately, more and more social savvy candidates are entering the workforce every day.

One Team

You need to make sure that your Customer Service department and your Marketing department are communicating effectively and that all employees are aware of your company’s vision, mission statement and objectives. Most importantly, you need to empower your employees to make good decisions with confidence, so that they can respond in real time, using their own judgement and you know that the risk in them doing so is minimal. You could even use technology to proof and add layers of authorisation (protection) to how they reply.

Apart from the risks associated with public real time responses, great customer service on social media looks the same as great customer service on any other channel. Customers want the same things: they want a swift response; they want you to be honest and acknowledge your mistakes; and they want a satisfactory outcome.

Train your staff so that they know the difference between auto-pilot and genuine engagement. You won’t succeed if you trot out placatory comments without substance. Remember, thousands of people may see the response so it must be worth reading. Try to avoid using cut and paste templates where possible; no matter how well they’re written they are still very obvious – especially after they’ve been seen several times on the same platform by the same customers. Enabling your employees to use their own natural tone of voice and their own words (and encouraging them to use their name to ensure that personal touch) can be scary – but it’s worth doing. One positive, engaging, conversational response that addresses the customer’s concerns directly and offers an appropriate solution will always surpass badly written apologies that don’t sound genuine.

Take It Offline & Be Genuine

Another important consideration is taking conversations offline. A public apology and a transparent ownership of any mistakes are great tools for showing customers that you care. However, consider the implications of offering a solution publicly: you could set a precedent for every customer to want the same outcome; you could even encourage unscrupulous people to make false complaints if you’ve offered public compensation before.

There might be occasions where you need to have a conversation about sensitive data like account numbers or contact details, and a Facebook wall just isn’t the place to do it. Have a process in place for apologising publicly but then letting the customer know that you will contact them privately with the outcome or to take more information – don’t push the initiative back on to the complainant to complain again elsewhere, especially via a channel they did not approach you from.

 Embrace Technology with Technology

Invest in software that will analyse your social media presence and the feedback you’re getting from customers on the main channels like Facebook and Twitter. Remember that whilst we’re focussing here on complaints, many people will share positive experiences on social media too or even seek the answers to basic service questions and these need to be identified and addressed. Every customer who comments about you on social media must be addressed; the one you overlook is the one that will escalate and damage your reputation.

You also need to be able to identify trolls – some people don’t want a genuine outcome, they just want to cause trouble. Being able to identify them and deal with them effectively is a key part of your effective strategy.

Again, look to your processes – do your employees know what to do if they suspect they are being trolled? Knowledge is power so make sure you teach them how to handle this potentially sensitive public situation.

Technology can help you to catch negative feedback before it escalates. Rather than leave it to chance, have a system that alerts you to a problem and get your team to resolve it within a set time – you could even route the problem to the most capable team member to resolve it.

Your Next Steps

Communication at all levels of your company is vital. It’s no good making social media management decisions in the boardroom and simply handing off responsibility to the Marketing team – you need everyone on board. Customer Service need to work with Marketing to make sure they have aligned skills and knowledge about best customer service practice.

The cleanest approach is to have a clear vision that is shared throughout the business, to ensure Marketing provides great feedback and reports on social media analysis and that Customer Service craft great responses that align with the company’s aims and objectives. For those with a separate complaints team, you need to bridge the divide and allow for one team or a connected team.

Effective social media management will help you to develop and maintain a healthy brand and will improve your relationship with your customers. Your customers are talking about you anyway, so you have nothing to lose – and much to gain – by giving them a platform to talk to you via their favourite sites, with you in control.

Remember that mission statement so lovingly crafted that’s lost in the weeds on your website? Use it. Reinforce it daily and show it working publicly through social channels.

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