In technology, as in so much else, things go wrong all the time. Web sites go down, companies lose your data, and more. We all know this and – to greater or lesser degrees – broadly accept that it will eventually happen to us. The real trick, often, isn’t to prevent everything going wrong but to respond well when it does.
But what is a good response?
Implicitly, we think we know what it is. A good response, most of us believe, will be:
quick, admitting fault before being found out, and proactively keeping customers up to date throughout;
transparent, actually admitting you’ve messed up, explaining what happened, and discussing what’s being done to put it right;
proactive, contacting affected customers and offering to help, rather than waiting for the complaints to pour in;
above and beyond, doing far more than Ts&Cs require, offering significant additional service credits, freebies, and more.
And yet, so many businesses go out of their way to do the exact opposite. They’re secretive, their existing communications channels go dark, they wait for customers to complain and then pile form after form on them in the hope that they’ll go away. The most persistent complainers will, eventually, receive the measly ‘compensation’ to which the SLA or terms and conditions say they’re entitled. And everyone is left with a bad perspective of the company concerned.
Are the offenders hopelessly out of touch, overly beholden to stingy shareholders, stuck in patently absurd ways of thinking about business and customers, and doomed to fail?
Or are they playing a longer game, recognising that blips in service will be forgotten, and that keeping things quiet is a better way to manage a long-term customer relationship, a long-term market profile, and long-term stock growth?
I want the quick, transparent, proactive, open approach to be best. But, increasingly, I wonder if it is?
(Cross-posted @ Paul Miller)