- By Keith Kirkpatrick
- September 16, 2022
In an ideal world, a company’s products and services would be designed with feature sets, usability, and functionality tuned to each individual customer’s bespoke preferences and needs. Such a business model is neither economical nor practical, so customer-facing teams must be willing, able, and prepared to mitigate any real or imagined product design or usability issues through the delivery of an excellent customer experience.
Of course, product design and customer feedback should be considered as a continuous improvement cycle loop, where design teams, experience teams, and customer feedback teams work together to incorporate feedback to address customer issues or complaints, resulting in revised or new products that better align with customer needs or desires. However, due to the diversity of customer needs, it is virtually impossible to design feature sets that meet each customer’s every need. Similarly, technological, economic and marketing constraints may also impact the ability of designers to incorporate every product feedback suggestion into each subsequent product revision, and, even if it were possible to do so, finding agreement on what suggestions to incorporate is next-to-impossible to accomplish.
That said, there are several strategies CX teams should use to mitigate perceived or real product issues, engendering repeat business and driving increased customer loyalty and advocacy. These strategies can also help address negative peaks in the customer journey, which carry significant weight in the minds of customers when considering whether or not to purchase or recommend additional products from a company.
Don’t be an ostrich
It is important for CX teams to acknowledge that the customer is having an issue or problem with a product or service. That does not mean admitting that a product or service is poorly designed, but simply acknowledging that the customer is having some sort of problem.
In many cases, problems can be considered “user error,” which provides an opportunity to further engage a customer. CX teams can explain how a particular process should be completed so that the product or service can work as designed, and then also refer them to the company’s resource pages or instructional videos, which should be frequently updated to handle complex or confusing tasks.
Acknowledgement of customer issues – even when the product is working as designed – demonstrates empathy for the customer and their situation, and shows that the company is interested in trying to address the problem.
Capture and share feedback with product teams
A key component in both product design and CX is to ensure that customers can provide specific feedback related to the features or functionality of the product or service. This feedback should be captured and shared with product teams, and perhaps most importantly, customers should be reassured that their feedback is being captured and sent to these teams.
In addition, data on particularly challenging or frustrating experiences with a product should be captured and assessed to both find a root cause, and drive the production of additional resources for customers. For example, if customers are stumbling over a particular feature or process, it is wise to consider creating explainer videos, as well as writing or rewriting specific instructions for completing that process. Links to these resources should be sent to all existing customers, as well as prominently displayed on the company’s web page for easy retrieval.
Provide an alternative solution or workaround
Once that feedback has been collected, it is incumbent upon the CX teams to try to come up with a solution or workaround to the problem. While some issues may be difficult to overcome (such as dealing with a product that is dead on arrival, or was easily broken or disabled), CX teams can still offer solutions that can mitigate the product failure.
Some companies will simply acknowledge a defective product, and issue the customer a new product (high-end beverage cooler manufacturer Yeti has taken such an approach to products under warranty, and has strengthened its reputation as a company that not only produces premium products, but fully stands behind its workmanship). Others may suggest a workaround to accomplishing a task (such as a mobile phone company providing explicit instructions on how to shut down non-critical apps or features to conserve battery life).
Ultimately, CX teams and product designers should periodically review common customer issues or complaints (deploying social listening tools in community forums can be an effective way to get a jump on this process), and then discuss potential solutions or workarounds that CX teams can share with customers.
Keep customers apprised of fixes or upgrades
Another key strategy for building customer goodwill and loyalty is checking back in with them when specific fixes or product upgrades have been released that directly relate to an issue they have had. This reinforces the customer-centric approach of matching issues or needs to solutions, and can also help drive additional product revenue.
For example, automobile manufacturers will issue vehicle recalls addressing specific feature or safety issues, and do not charge customers for having the issue fixed. However, smart dealerships and service centers can also take the opportunity to cross-sell additional items or services, often by simply offering a discount for these items when the car is brought in for the recall. Other product manufacturers and dealers can take a similar approach, so long as the initial issue is taken care of without requiring an additional purchase, a tactic that usually appears as underhanded and shady.
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