Investing in Relationships Can Help Foster Great Customer Experiences

We buy homeowner’s insurance, but hope we never need it.

Sometimes we fork over extra money for a product warranty, just in case.

There are a lot of examples of how we try to guard against future problems and invest in insurance or try to fill our “goodwill” pots so we have something to draw from in the future.

The same thinking can and should apply to investing in customer relationships. When we go the extra mile to help a customer out of a rough patch (even when we might not be the cause of the issue), we make a deposit of goodwill that will almost certainly be needed in the future. Why? Because, we are human, our business is complex, and despite our best efforts, we are likely to cause unintended grief for that customer at some point in time.

A thin line separates success and failure when it comes customer experience. Time and time again, we see that a single moment or encounter can change the long-term course of a business relationship, for better or worse. In such an instance, the goodwill created can make the difference between a solid relationship and a severed one. It’s an investment with a very high rate of return – especially for top accounts.

There are great examples of companies in all industries that have invested in the extra mile and their investments paid off exponentially. Last year I read about one company that went above and beyond for a consumer:

“Recently, our three-year-old Cuisinart coffee maker started making noises akin to a strangled parrot, and then ended its life with a theatrical puff of smoke, like a magician’s finale. When contacted about this, Cuisinart — which is owned by the Conair Corporation — immediately shipped us a newer and better machine, even though ours was long out of warranty. The company also provided a box to ship the old one back, presumably for an autopsy.

The whole process took less than five days. Well done, Conair. You have a customer for life.”

New York Times, April 28, 2013, “When Companies Get It Right”

“You have a customer for life.” That’s what every company wants to hear. Not only did Conair engender great loyalty, the anecdote was printed in a newspaper with more than 1.2 million daily readers and lives on via the Web.

Good news like the story above doesn't travel fast.  Sometimes it never travels.  But bad news certainly does.  And with more than 4.5 billion social users connected on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other networks and almost 170 million smartphone subscribers in the U.S., a company's failures can become widely known in a matter of hours.

As such, good intentions are not good enough. Taking action aggressively is essential when it comes to proactive customer service. Sometimes you just have to jump, without a clue about how and where you’ll land.

We experienced exactly this very recently at Oracle. A pharmaceutical manufacturer that has a sizeable Oracle Database environment was experiencing an issue in its global information system (GIS) that was, in essence, paralyzing its supply chain and shipment of products. Signs were pointing to a database corruption issue, so the customer called Oracle Support, which took the leap, with two possible solutions – both of which were complicated endeavors.

Oracle garnered the global resources needed for immediate action − staying online with the customer throughout the night while skilled development teams worked behind the scenes and around the globe and clock to develop and deliver a solution in hours. Once the system became operational, Oracle Support continued to analyze the root problem, and determined that the issue first began to reveal its self a few days earlier following a disaster recovery exercise and update of an unrelated non-Oracle system. While the problem ultimately emanated from a different system, Oracle sprinted the extra mile to help the get customer up and running as quickly as possible and then helped to determine the root cause. Our efforts didn’t go unnoticed or unrecognized. The customer team, including the CIO, was extremely grateful. There was little question that we needed to jump when the customer called. But we could have shut down our efforts as soon as it was becoming clear that the issue was not ours. We saw it to the end, demonstrating commitment to the customer’s business and the spirit of partnership. The customer’s supply chain restarted and goodwill was generated.

The well-known “service paradox theory” purports that customers will come back even after they have experienced a problem with a company, provided the company takes appropriate action – makes amends with an apology, provides a refund, or takes some steps to acknowledge and rectify a service issue. Forrester found in a 2010 study that 81% of consumers who encountered problems but got great service recovery were very likely to continue doing business with the company in question.

The short- and long-term value of building a reserve of goodwill that can be tapped in the event that it is needed.  In essence, goodwill becomes the currency for future opportunity, affording a chance to address and fully resolve an issue and, ultimately, strengthen a customer relationship.  That's a very sound investment, indeed.



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Welcome to the Customers in the Know Blog. My name is Jeb Dasteel, I am Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer at Oracle. I am responsible for driving customer-focus into all aspects of the Oracle business. I advocate and work within Oracle to develop and deliver customer programs that increase customer retention, value delivered, satisfaction, and loyalty. This blog was designed to enhance our engagement and interaction with our customers, by providing them exclusive Oracle executive insights, ensuring they have the most up-to-date trends and news directly from Oracle, as well as guest blog submissions by some of our customers.



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