One of the realities of running any business is the need to make unhappy customers happy. In a world of real-time social sharing, one frustrated customer can have significant consequences to your brand reputation. An issue that might have only influenced close friends and family of a dissatisfied customer, can quickly spread across social channels.
Many brands have transitioned to a more customer-centric approach in an effort to reduce the noise associated with these service issues. One important tool brands have to reduce negative customer noise and restore the brand relationship is to establish an appeasement program in the form of financial incentives. The challenge is treating customers fairly and consistently while also resolving the situation to the satisfaction of each customer and restoring consumer trust.
Brands that have crafted a successful appeasement program rely on these best practices:
1. Define your goals
Are you trying to reduce negative social media exposure?
Are you working to minimize complaints that are escalated to executives?
Is it critical to your business to maintain your NPS score?
Understanding why you are creating an appeasement program will determine how awards are delivered, what the awards are, and most importantly what the criteria is for providing an award in an effort to rebuild customer relationships.
2. Create Consistent business rules
- Provide clear criteria for your front-line consumer retention team to apply.
- Empower front-line representatives to make decisions by establishing a standard appeasement process. Applying consistent business rules before awarding each customer ensures a resolution without creating additional openings to fraud.
3. Ensure an escalation path
- Even when the most well-defined appeasement program is in place, there will be situations when a CEO says, “Just make this customer happy.” In those instances having an expedited approval process including all appropriate stakeholders ahead of time is critical to customer retention.
- The most successful appeasement programs have a pre-approved escalation path. Waiting for permissions or other complicated organizational processes often leave consumers frustrated and even harder to retain.
4. Pick the right award
- Many times, the award falls flat in terms of consumer expectations even if the rest of the appeasement process is positive. Offering an award like a rolling bill credit will just remind a customer of the poor experience and then disappoint again when it rolls off.
- Store credit in the form of a gift card is a good choice alongside products like prepaid cards.
5. Track, track, track
- No matter what the business criteria is for awarding an appeasement, the most effective program managers understand every step in the customer experience.
- Tracking allows you to understand where and why appeasement requests are happening. Identifying the root cause and fixing these operational issues will reduce the number of appeasements awarded and minimize compromises to brand reputation.
Appeasement programs are a necessary part of any business, defining the best process to restore customer relationships and reestablish brand reputation are fundamental steps toward authentic customer forgiveness. Following these five best practices will put you on the right path to retain valuable customers.
A few questions to consider:
- Where in your company do appeasements happen? Are there re-occurring scenarios?
- How much are you currently spending in appeasements each year?
- Who makes the decision to issue a financial incentive?
Kevin Palmstein is a Senior Director of Product Management at YA. He works with clients everyday to design custom appeasement programs.