Thursday, September 25, 2014

Is Your Customer Experience Management Causing Complaints?

Is your customer experience causing complaints?Online review sites give customers the chance to have their say about their experiences - good or bad - with businesses. Many businesses hate those sites and complain that they paint a false picture of their customer experience. Are they right, or should they see this as a wake-up call?

Autralia's consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) recently threw its hat into the ring. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the ACCC is calling for regulation of hospitality review sites such as Urbanspoon, Eatability, and TripAdvisor, following complaints from restaurants that these sites unfairly damage their reputation.

Their main complaint is that some of the online reviews are fake or exaggerated, and might be posted by disgruntled past employees or customers seeking revenge for something trivial.

They do have a point, but is that the best response?

Trying to control online conversations is a game you can't win. It might have worked years ago, when information was tightly controlled. But now that anybody has the power to say whatever they like, it's difficult to stop them.

Sure, there are some inaccurate reviews, but they aren't the vast majority. By the hospitality industry's own admission, only about half of the reviews were considered malicious or vexatious. And that was from a self-reported survey of the industry, which is obviously biased. So the real number will be much lower.

People buying faulty products have the chance to return them. But people buying "faulty" accommodation, dining or travel services rarely get their money back. So they turn to review sites to vent their frustration.

What if those hospitality providers looked at those reviews as an opportunity rather than a threat?

Could it be that many people are reporting a bad experience because, err ... they had a bad experience?

Experience is the key word here.

In our increasingly competitive world, businesses can't expect to get and keep customers and clients just based on their products and services. They need to deliver great experiences. That's what your customer is buying from you.

For example, one of the people quoted in the SMH article is Warren Turnbull, the chef at Chur Burger in Surry Hills. He says:

"People love to have a whinge or a rant. If I did the most amazing dish in the world and sold it for two dollars, there would still be people complaining."

Sorry, Mr. Turnbull, but you're missing the point! Your customers aren't paying just for the burger - they are paying for the experience of dining out.

To confirm this, I looked at Chur Burger's reviews on Urbanspoon. As Warren Turnbull says, some of the negative reviews do complain about the quality of the food. But when you position yourself with the tag line "Voted the best burgers in Sydney", you're setting very high expectations.

But, even leaving this aside, there are also many reviews about long wait times, rude and inconsiderate staff, the noisy venue, and over-priced drinks.

Of course, this isn't just about $10 burgers!

What are you doing to give your customers and clients a superior experience?

They have so many more options now, so yes, they do have higher expectations. And the Internet makes it so much easier for them to find other options.

If the product you sell can be built in China, and the service you offer can be outsourced to India, what makes you different? Only the experience you offer. So make it a good one!