Not-so-sweet experience management, Part 2

I learn a lot talking with customers, but I learn a lot more talking with lost customers. I think losing a customer should hit a company like losing a friend or lover hits a person: you should (usually) just feel darn bad about it. But even losing a customer can be turned into a good experience, and the concept of electronic engagement can help. In fact, if the experience is right, you might not lose the customer after all.

In a July, 1990 article in Harvard Business Review entitled “The Profitable Art of Service Recovery,” the authors offer evidence that organizations who respond immediately and decisively after a bad customer experience are actually more likely to retain the customer than if no blip in the experience had occurred in the first place.

Now, while I’m not suggesting that we should all go out and develop strategies to create bad customer experiences that we can respond to, I am suggesting that electronically engaging customers who are on the bubble can lead to faster, more personalized, and more actionable response.

Consider the bad Hersheypark experience that I wrote of in my last post. Had I been able to buy discount tickets online, I would have. Now you have my email address. When I use my tickets at the park, you know exactly when I visited. There are a million ways to engage me mobilly (not a real word yet, but it will be soon), but we’ll leave that for another post. You can follow up the day after I’m there, offering me an incentive to complete a quick online survey. And if I’m honked enough, I’m actually more likely to fill it out than if I’d had just an OK time.

Now that you know I’m not happy, you can engage me electronically again with a sincere “I’m (and it should come from a person, not “Hersheypark Guest Relations”) so sorry we disappointed you” email, and any number of small incentives to “give us another chance to please you.” And small is important: I don’t need 10 free season passes: just some small acknowledgment that you feel bad that I had a bad experience, and that you’d like to make it up to me.

Not only are all those electronic engagement tools powerful; they’re cheap, easy, scalable and automatable. And impact? You keep a lot of customers. Who tell others how magnificently you responded and so likely makes them customers, as well. Big multiplier at work here.

Oh, and you also search blogs like this one, to see what’s being said about you online.