How to Make the Most of a Bad Customer Experience

Here at West Monroe, we talk a lot about the “customer experience” – how businesses attract and retain their most valuable customers.  The way in which a company handles a negative customer experience is equally, if not more, powerful than a positive customer experience. Does your company have the processes and supporting technology in place to lead a customer through an issue?  How does your company make sure that customer relationship remains strong at the end of it?

A personal experience with the car-sharing company Zipcar answered some of these questions for me. I had reserved a car through Zipcar’s website to drive to an appointment in the Chicago suburbs. When I arrived at where the car was supposed to be parked, it was nowhere to be found. When their call center re-booked me at a second car, that one was nowhere to be found, either. Despite competing car-sharing services I could have subscribed to based on this negative customer experience, I remained a customer. Here’s how Zipcar managed to keep my business:

Integrate the product: When I initially called Zipcar to report my “missing” first car, the customer service rep (CSR) I spoke with beeped the car’s horn remotely to see if I could hear it in the vicinity. In this way, even though the CSR wasn’t on the ground with me, she was able to provide on-the-ground support. When I still couldn’t find the car, she re-booked me on a different car, which immediately sent me an email notification and showed up on my Zipcar app. The company’s customer portal, call center, and product were all interconnected, making it easier to solve my problem.

Own the issue: When the CSR first re-booked me on a new car, she immediately recommended I take a cab to the new car and submit the expense to Zipcar for reimbursement. When I was livid about the second missing car, the manager I spoke to made the same recommendation, upgraded me from a Ford to an Audi, and reimbursed me for the cost of my reservation. As much as I hate to admit it, the reality is that upgrades and cash made me feel a whole lot better about the situation. Zipcar owned the issue, with a resolution process in place tailored to their 20-something, city-dwelling customer base.

Follow up: I received an email from the manager later that day confirming everything we discussed. Furthermore, I was reimbursed for both taxis promptly. Zipcar solved the immediate problem – I needed a car to get to an appointment – and followed up in exactly the way they said they would.

Now, luckily, that was the first and only time I’ve had a car (or two) “go missing.”  Zipcar did a good job of managing the inevitable, but hopefully infrequent, negative customer experience. At West Monroe, we tell our clients that technology alone does not make for a positive customer experience – it must be coupled with people and process to have a profound and lasting effect in attracting and retaining customers.  The results at Zipcar? I’m a 3-year customer writing a very positive blog about a very bad customer experience.

Phone: 312-602-4000
222 W. Adams
Chicago, IL 60606
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