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Why “sorry” isn’t good enough for customer engagement

Posted by ConsumerAffairs
ConsumerAffairs

In relationships, one of the more common phrases heard in arguments is, “I’m sorry.” The typical response if it’s a repeat offense? “Then why do you keep doing it?”

 

There’s nothing worse than an apology made insincere with continued failure. Why do people keep repeating the same mistakes? We all do it, it usually stems from inability to learn from those mistakes and make changes to improve. Even when you move on after getting burned, there’s an urge to warn others.

 

It’s not just individuals who are guilty of this practice. Businesses are equally guilty of being insincere with customers. It’s a terrible customer engagement strategy, and a recipe for failure. The exchange goes something like this:

 

Customer: “I had a really horrible experience. Your product broke before I could even use it, and every time I tried to call you for a refund, I couldn’t get a hold of anyone. I just want to speak to someone about a refund.”

 

Business: “Hi [Customer], we’re sorry to hear this. We will let our customer service team know. Can you email us at service@company.com so we can look into it further?”

 

The customer emails their information. A week or two passes, and the business responds,

“Thanks [Customer]. We’re looking into this right now, and someone will contact you shortly.”

 

Shortly, as in an additional week or two after that first week or two. Because consumers don’t mind waiting even longer to have their issues resolved while still unable to use the products they spent their money on.

 

Maybe the company writes back. Maybe they don’t. The worst companies hope you’ll forget. The ones who do respond may have thousands of other people to respond to, and you’re just another notch on their customer service bedposts. Unfortunately, humans are wired to remember negative experiences more vividly for the sake of self-preservation. After all, no one wants to get bit by a wild animal a second time around.

 

If the company writes back, the response tends to be a deflection strategy meant to keep company revenue from being lost:

 

“Hello [Customer]. Thank you for your patience. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer a full refund, but we can send you a coupon for your next purchase.”

 

Businesses doing this are banking on consumers being willing to buy another product, even with no possibility of a refund or resolution. The worst part of this is the continued failure on part of the company to actually use feedback to make a change and improve the customer experience. The same companies failing to solve the issues causing negative feedback are the same ones who don’t know how helpful customer feedback can be. They also don’t seem to understand the ways negative reviews can be used to earn more positive reviews. It’s not about just leaving an apology behind and deflecting customers to save money. It’s about being better, so customers actually have great experiences they want to share on review sites. Great reviews, in turn, draw in more customers who see these experiences as they research to make purchases.

 

Sorry isn’t enough anymore. Consumer stories on review sites warn other consumers, and without solving the root cause of negative reviews, those insincere apologies are just an open invitation to receive even more negative reviews and lose revenue as customers leave and potential customers purchase from other brands. On the other hand, using negative reviews to analyze problems and solve them quickly means customers are likely to receive a satisfactory resolution, update the initial review if possible, and continue buying from the company. Better customer experience means those positive stories will grow, and the record of a shift in customer experience will lead to increases in trust and customer volume.

 

I realize it seems like a no-brainer, but surprisingly, businesses are still trying to find shortcuts to keep money at the expense of their customers. By overlooking customer needs, those same businesses impede their own ability to preserve existing customers and grow revenue.

Tags: Customer Service, Customer Engagement