Are brands setting unrealistic expectations or is the Indian customer getting angrier?
It’s 2018 and the adage ‘Customer is King’ is now ‘Customer is God’. Thanks to social media platforms, customers today are more powerful than ever. Brands that were earlier using social media to acquire customers are, today, spending more time fielding customer rants or offering freebies to maintain their online image. Is the Indian customer
getting angrier or are brands mismanaging customer expectations?
Let’s start with a typical order cycle that has gone wrong: a customer books a product or service only to find it isn’t what was promised and then the reactions begin. While some resort to customer helplines, others vent their anger through online shaming or hate tweets. Brands understand customers’ frustration and that sometimes a simple ‘sorry’ is inadequate.
Customer is always right, right?
The Indian customer has been pampered over the last decade with free home deliveries, instant refunds and recurring discounts. Amidst all this, a growing proportion of customers are misusing the ‘customer is always right’ slogan. From last-minute product changes to demanding refund on a used product, customers sometimes disregard the company’s terms and conditions. In an age of instant gratification, the customer expects a quick-fix to all her problems.
While brands may not have instant solutions, they can start by being empathetic. An ideal customer care response could begin with, “I am sorry you feel this way. Let me do my best to help you out.” Beginning the response with “I am” creates a personal connection and engages the customer. By saying “sorry you feel this way,” you are acknowledging that the customer is upset. The second sentence shows that you are on the side of the customer and “let me do my best” builds a trust bridge. And now you have the customer’s attention.
Yes, brands make mistakes
With glossy marketing campaigns, brands may create a persona of perfection but they are run by people who are as human as their customers. Customers may correctly question: “If I have paid for a service, shouldn’t I get what I asked for?” It’s your right to expect what was promised. However, in case this does not happen, you can be the teacher. Companies are built on feedback, and customer complaints are the biggest source of learning for any brand. But today, unfortunately, companies receive more rants instead of constructive criticism. According to a recent survey by American Express, Indian customers were found to be the most abusive with 64% Indians losing their temper with the customer service and 12% resorting to profanity.
At the same time, brands must also realise that one solution is not fit for all customers. Customer care must be empowered to not only compensate the customer, but also provide more creative (and heartfelt) apologies. For instance, a leading food delivery service was in the news recently when one of its customer care teams used humour to make up for its mistake and win the customer’s heart. Today, a lot of marketplaces are using customer rating as a step to promote mutual respect and healthy business-customer relationships.
For brands, a great first step would be to take responsibility for stronger customer communication. Aim to get the best out of a customer conversation and empower the customer teams to move from passive to progressive. If a customer survey does not give the right answers, get on ground and meet customers. In the end, this will help build a better brand promise and achieve what we all are rooting for — making the customer smile.
The author is founder and CEO, Mutterfly