Business Journal

The Silver Lining of Customer Problems (Part 4)

The Silver Lining of Customer Problems (Part 4)
by Daniela Yu and Bailey Nelson

Story Highlights

  • Customer-centric problem resolution drives customer engagement
  • High-compliance workplaces must bend rules for satisfactory resolution
  • For all companies, engaged employees are more customer-focused

This is the fourth article in a four-part series.

To customers, encountering problems is frustrating enough. But all too often, the experience of resolving problems makes things even worse.

While customer problems can hurt any company's bottom line, the resolution process is often downright disastrous.

The silver lining is that handling problems in a customer-centric manner is a powerful driver of customer engagement. Leaders can turn potential threats into growth opportunities by prioritizing customers throughout the problem-resolution process.

As one strategy for delivering customer-centric resolution experiences, leaders should leverage an analytics-based approach: evaluating their unique resources, systems and needs for a customized problem-resolution plan. By understanding their unique strengths and weaknesses, companies can better prevent and resolve problems.

For example, Gallup's 2016 customer problem experience study uncovered critical differences between best practices for problem resolution in high-compliance organizations (financial, healthcare and government) versus low-compliance workplaces (retail, hospitality and education).

We found that problems in high-compliance environments tend to be more severe and, in turn, more disengaging to customers. Even more troubling, just 16% of high-compliance customers were satisfied with the efforts taken to resolve their problems and 31% were satisfied with the final solutions.

Advice for High-Compliance Organizations

Gallup also uncovered key strategies to help high-compliance organizations overcome their unique challenges:

Entrust employees to connect meaningfully with customers. High-compliance organizations should give employees the freedom to individualize their communications with customers for more genuine and empathetic conversations.

Maintain customer focus with new regulations. Especially with frequent changes in technology, marketplace conditions and customer expectations, high-compliance organizations should continually strive to align company policies with customer engagement goals.

Empower employees for streamlined problem resolution. To address issues with lengthy, complicated problem resolution, high-compliance companies should train employees to solve problems with minimal reliance on supervisors.

Set customer-centric performance goals for employees. High-compliance organizations need to ensure performance goals prioritize customers' needs -- rather than emphasizing bottom-line outcomes and incentivizing workers to provide rushed, subpar service.

Employee Engagement Is Paramount

In addition to identifying company-specific best practices, leaders should employ proven strategies for optimizing customer centricity within an organization. Focusing on employee engagement is one critical best practice for all companies: Gallup finds that when employees are engaged, they are 4.6 times more likely to be customer-centric than are less engaged workers.

When managers engage their workers, they empower them to excel in their work and improve customers' lives. Gallup research reveals that engaged workers are more likely to strongly agree that they have grown in their ability to help customers, that they have the authority they need to do their job well and that they have freedom to make decisions.

Importantly, engaged workers are more attuned to the needs of customers and are motivated to go the extra mile to resolve customer problems. They are also more likely to care about quality and are more observant of processes, standards and systems.

Because engaged workers focus on customer and organizational outcomes, it's in their nature to discover causes of problems and prevent problems from reoccurring. Further, engaged employees feel comfortable raising concerns and are more likely to feel confident the company will do the right thing for customers.

The bottom line is that employees who are engaged help their companies improve customer relationships and obtain impressive organic growth. In fact, as revealed in Gallup's 2017 State of the American Workplace report, highly engaged business units achieve a 10% increase in customer metrics and a 20% increase in sales.

Regardless of an organization's size, type or industry, customer problems are a serious threat. Remedying organization-specific weaknesses and strengths is one pivotal step toward mitigating problems. To develop and sustain a customer-centric culture, all leaders must make employee engagement a central organizational initiative.

Sign up for the "Silver Lining of Customer Problems" webinar, during which Gallup experts will share more insights and best practices on how to turn customer problems into drivers of engagement.


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