The original three Rs can trace their start in life as a reference to the importance of a strong educational foundation: Reading, Riting and Rithmetic. Depending on which account you believe, they appear to date back to the early nineteenth century and, despite appearances to the contrary, I wasn’t present at their birth. Since then, this trifecta model has demonstrated its enduring legacy and strength, both in alliteration and as a linguistic device, to develop similar strong foundational concepts in formal education, personal development and, more latterly, business.
As I had recently followed this well-trodden path with my white paper on the Four Principles of Customer Experience: Culture, Commitment, Communication, Community, the Four Cs, I’ve moved along rapidly, and as a result of a recent great customer experience, I’m now up to my R’s in alliteration and game changing concepts.
I recently decided not to take a bite of the big Apple revolution and placed my faith in various Samsung devices, which included mobile phones, tablets and TVs. As with any new technology adventure, I’ve had a few growing pains and finally decided, against all male instincts, to seek help from Samsung support. I won’t go into details here, but the early signs weren’t good and I sent a strongly worded email, though still within the bounds of common decency, to Samsung’s UK support team. Based on my experiences with other tech company support operations, my expectations were pretty low. But I hadn’t reckoned on getting a call from Paddy in Newry – has a nice ring doesn’t it?
Paddy, who is a team leader with Samsung’s support team – and it’s clear why – called me within 4 hours of my most recent and frantic email. And here, with the benefit of the new three Rs, is how it went.
The first thing that Paddy did was to recognize how this had affected me and to offer his apologies, not only for the problems I was having with my devices, but also for the difficulties I was having with support and the time that this cost me. The way that Paddy handled this, his words, the empathy they contained, his inflection, his whole approach, convinced me he was sincere. This is critical to getting the customer rescue exercise off on the right foot. Very often when things go wrong, especially with train companies, mobile phone providers and banks, you usually get the lame and insincere, corporately crafted “we apologize for any inconvenience caused”, which has a much feeling as a frozen moose on a Canadian prairie in winter. While I recognize that in this increasingly litigious era, companies are scared to death of admitting anything beyond rank and serial number, it’s refreshing and organizationally positive to get an honest and sincere apology when things go south.
Then he went to work on the recovery phase. We went through the issues, slowly, carefully and in a detailed, yet not in a patronizing or condescending way. This wasn’t just about fixing the problems. He made sure that I understood what was causing the problems and how to ensure that they didn’t reoccur. He listened. More importantly, he heard what I said. He gave me time to respond and at all times gave me the feeling that this was as important to him to find a resolution as was to me. Clearly archaic and dumb contact centre metrics such as average handle time (AHT), don’t get a look in here. But, as a result of this encounter, more important customer experience metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS), will tell the true story.Once again, without being sycophantic, he apologized for the problems and made me feel glad that I’d made this contact. Contrast this with the experience I had the previous day with my mobile phone provider, where the service advisor, spoke over me, never heard, or listened to my real issue and left me even more frustrated than when I had started the call.
As many of us recognize, recovering from a difficult customer situation or complaint can provide one of the best opportunities to build a meaningful, mutually profitable, long term relationship. And renewal of trust and faith in an organization is probably the most critical and difficult area of the whole customer rescue process. Because at this point, as with any recovery process, whether in our personal or business lives, we need a strong, emotional and compelling reason to stay where we are and/or to continue to use a product or service. The alternatives are to make more drastic, time consuming and potentially costly decisions, and to seek solace elsewhere.
But by now we were well on the journey to renewal. Paddy had recognized and addressed my concerns, recovered the situation and now the power and resilience that human kindness and a strong emotional connection can bring, completed the process. Seems over the top? Not at all, because how else will that happen? As my fellow Canadian Joel Bakan asserts in his book The Corporation, corporations are by their nature sociopathic, effectively having the legal rights of an individual, but with no social conscience. The corporation has a legally defined mandate to relentlessly pursue—without exception—its own self-interest regardless of the often harmful consequences it might cause to others. While this may seem unfair, especially to organizations like Samsung that do appear to care, it’s often left to people such as Paddy to pick up the pieces when corporate objectives and personal expectations collide so spectacularly. Which he did expertly, with skill, care and compassion.
In the context of a great customer experience, I’m sure you could find room for some other R’s; Retention, Referral and Relief. All of which should be evident in this blog, and via the messages of praise that I sent via Twitter, Facebook, and to Samsung directly. But in keeping with my general customer experience philosophy, let’s keep this simple. If you follow this three step customer rescue plan you’ll be less likely to lose your customers or to be up to your Rs in alligators.