Product Launches Can Be Pyrrhic Victories

After months and months of planning, your new product is finally out in the market. And its a success! Then your top customer advocate discovers an "undocumented feature" and the downward spiral begins. Word spreads that your brand new product has a flaw, then the calls start rolling in. Lets face it, no one likes it when a product breaks but sometimes life finds a way. Always prepare for the inevitable. A customer once acquired is not a fixed asset - if you can't keep them happy, at least try not to upset them more. Customer support should be an integral part of your new product strategy or else your customers will find a resolution on their own...and you might not like the outcome.

Empathy should be the heart of your customer support strategy. Put yourself in their shoes and start by asking what if someone is using the product other than it was initially intended?  What if the product's functionality itself doesn't make sense or is too complex, leading to custom workarounds? There are myriad reasons for customer dissatisfaction, but only a few positive outcomes - the need for a speedy resolution, and with a smile. Understanding the severity of the complaint and properly routing it helps to resolve the issues quickly. But where to begin?

Give 'em a channel. Creating a forum on your site not only allows your customers to vent their frustrations when things don't go well but it gives you the first opportunity to act on it become it becomes severe.  People express themselves when and where they think they can affect change. If you don't have a forum set up for them to do that, chances are you won't like where they post it.

And act on it. The one sure way to get a terrible online review is to let a customer complaint sit idly in an unattended inbox. Try to avoid that if you can. Indifference is worse than having no forum at all. Indifference is competitive fodder. If you are prompt about following up you can avoid an escalation. A mild concern about a product is compounded by the fact that the problem isn't being addressed in a timely manner. This makes the issue several orders of magnitude worse for them and your public image.

Any customer that is willing to go through the contact us link on your site has a different objective than one who only wants to take 140 characters to put you on blast. That can absolutely work in your favor...if handled correctly. Chatbots can help automate the initial stages (the switchboard work) of routing a complaint properly, but it should ultimately be placed into some form of human interaction. Quickly.

Don't have a 24/7 support center? That's completely fine. There's nothing wrong with setting reasonable support resolution times on your website. But that's no excuse for failing to meet those times. The key is to under promise and over deliver. Have you ever set your watch fast on purpose, just because you know that you tend to run late? Setting customer support expectations should work like that. If your site claims that you will take 12 hours to respond to a question, take 8 or better yet, take 6. And be consistent about it.

If you can't create a forum on your site, you can still manage customer support inquiries via Social Media. With Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc, there is a different mindset when a customer complaint is logged. Who is making that complaint and what are they looking to achieve? Sometimes its someone that is just trying to stir the pot and gain notoriety. Sometimes there is an actual goal that in mind. Either way, people don't just tweet in a vacuum - there is always an intent. If they are using your Channel handle, they want some sort of resolution or recognition directly from you. If they are using you as a hashtag they may want something else and if they don't tag you at all...well they are probably not looking to gain a resolution. Not from you at least.

Whether your business is 24/7 or not, the Internet is always open. However, you can take advantage of the fact that a quick resolution is not always possible. With a social channel response you can set up a multi-tiered strategy. While most social media applications will immediately notify you if someone tags your handle in a DM or an @reply, you'll need a bigger net to catch the other social mentions. Applications like Hootsuite will allow you to create a filter to help monitor # tags and keyword searches, in addition to @ replies and mentions.

Just as every customer is different, so is each type of complaint. Whether you are in the B2B or B2C space, there is an actual human on the other end of each transaction. Keeping that in mind allows for a speedy and more positive resolution. After all, support resolutions help you build a better and more useful end product. An angry customer once satisfied can become one of your most loyal advocates as well.

Questions? Comments? We're here to help... sound off below! :-)