This post is a response to “Experience Story: I can’t believe they listened to my feedback! …(eventually)” by Syed Hassan.
Many companies try their best to prevent conflicts with their clients and correct the problems that cause them. However, these efforts prove to be futile in the long run, because it is next to impossible to maintain a perfect record of flawless interactions with customers. The good news is that conflicts with customers—dissatisfaction, unmet expectations, mistreatment and service mistakes—can actually be good for business!
In his Customer Experience blog, Syed Hassan posted the story of a man who received a stuffed animal from his telecommunications provider, as a reward for his 5-year long loyalty . Understandably, this person was outraged; he would have preferred to receive nothing instead of such insulting token of gratitude. Fortunately for the company, the marketing “strategists” also included an invitation to provide feedback through an online survey, which the man immediately filled out. Several months later, this person received a new package with a new “thank you” note and a headset for his phone (something he could actually use). As a result, this customer felt he was important for the company, and the disgruntling incident became such a positive experience that he wanted to tell all his friends about it. “Free marketing!” he added.
I totally agree with Syed that this story is a perfect example of how useful it is to listen to the voice of the customer. At the same time, I would like to add that the anecdote also shows that conflicts with clients are not necessarily bad for business. Rather, they are excellent opportunities to enhance their experience and gain their loyalty. It is up to the company to make something good of it: if they are willing to face the conflict and solve the problem, they can turn a negative situation into a favourable one.
Moreover, research on decision making demonstrates that people prefer situations to start badly and improve over time, rather then begin well but end badly . Indeed, as a customer, I appreciate more those situations that started with a problem and ended with and excellent solution on the part of the company. I come out of those incidents respecting more the retail store or bank, and regarding their staff as competent. On top of that, my trust in the company increases because they have demonstrated that they can and will live up to their promise.
In summary, companies cannot provide perfect customer experiences. However, they can take advantage of bad situations, by facing the conflict, listening to the customer, understanding his or her needs, and making decisions accordingly. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how many conflicts you have (or don’t have) with the customer; what really matters is how your company deals with them.
 Loewenstein, G. & Prelec, D. (2000). Preferences for sequences of outcomes. In Kahneman, D. & Tversky, A. (Eds.). Choices, Values, and Frames, pp. 565-577, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.