CX Best Practices: Close the Loop

When you gather feedback from your customers and prospects, make sure you close the loop to show that they’ve been heard.

An Unhappy Guest

Tyler wasn’t happy. As the manager of a time-share resort, Tyler was used to unhappy guests and handling complaints. Today, however, an e-mail had arrived from his concierge describing a particularly unhappy guest named Mr. Smith.  Mr. Smith had a variety of complaints, ranging from the resort fee he discovered at check in to the presence of an unannounced staff member lurking in his darkened room as he opened the door.

Mr. Smith hadn’t just complained to the concierge, either.  Less than 24 hours after his check in, he had already posted blistering negative reviews on Expedia and Travelocity.  And Tyler was pretty sure that the customer satisfaction survey that Mr. Smith would soon receive from corporate wasn’t going to go well either.

With a deep sigh, Tyler picked up the phone and dialed Mr. Smith’s number.  He wasn’t looking forward to the tongue-lashing he was sure he was about to receive.

A Surprising Conversation

When Mr. Smith answered the phone and Tyler introduced himself, he expected abuse.  Instead, Mr. Smith was quite pleasant. “I sent you my written feedback as part of the corporate survey,” he said, “but how can I help you further?”

Gritting his teeth, Tyler thanked Mr. Smith for his feedback. “We really appreciate your feedback, and even though there were obviously areas where we failed to meet your expectations, I wanted you to know that we take your complaints very seriously.  I also wanted to see if there was anything else we could do for you, or any other concerns you had.”

The conversation continued.  Mr. Smith confessed that he had been driving for ten hours when he pulled into the resort, so he wasn’t in the best frame of mind.  The resort fee was an annoyance, a relatively small amount of money that felt like a scam when it was de-coupled from the room rate. When he was surprised by the unexpected presence of a maintenance staff member in a darkened room, he became concerned about the safety of his family. Against that backdrop, the concierge had then tried to talk him into listening to a timeshare pitch, and by then Mr. Smith had had it.

Mr. Smith didn’t apologize for his complaints, but he also didn’t rant and scream either.  Tyler listened carefully, took lots of notes, and at the end tried to make amends. “I’m really sorry that your experience at our resort undermined your vacation.  I’d like to make it up to you.  If you’re back in this area, I would be happy to comp you a room for a night.”

Mr. Smith was appreciative. “Thank you for the offer, but I’m unlikely to be in that area again and, to be honest, I wouldn’t select your resort again.”

Tyler wasn’t going to be deterred that easily. “I understand, but I really do appreciate your time and feedback.  Can I send you a Starbucks gift card?” Mr. Smith agreed, they thanked each other, and the conversation was over.

Close the Loop

Between the time that Mr. Smith had complained to the concierge and the time Tyler called him, Mr. Smith was seething.  He was unhappy with the resort, but he was even more unhappy that the resort staff didn’t perceive his unhappiness and do something about it.

An unanswered complaint creates the impression that an organization doesn’t hear or care about customer feedback.  Even if the organization is scrambling behind the scenes, silence creates a terrible impression.

We tend to forgive mistakes when they are acknowledged and addressed.  Tyler’s call was the first time that Mr. Smith felt like his issues were being acknowledged.

When customers take the time to say something to an organization, whether it’s through a staff member or an online survey, it is critical that the organization acknowledge the feedback and close the loop. Tell the customer that you’ve heard and understand their complaints, apologize for any harm done, and then find a way to make amends, even if it’s only symbolically.

Close the loop.

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