I can remember being something like 9 or 10 years old when I first learned about the Bermuda Triangle. I’m not sure where I first got my facts, but I’m willing to bet good money that it was that classic TV show with Leonard Nimoy called “In Search Of…” I didn’t sleep for something like a week after that.
The basic story behind the Bermuda Triangle is that it is a patch of ocean (one side bounded by Bermuda) in which a large number of planes and boats have mysteriously vanished and have never been seen again. We product mangers have our own version of the Bermuda Triangle: it happens when complaints cause our customers to disappear without a trace.
Whether or not the Bermuda Triangle is real, when customer complaints are not handled correctly a product can be made to disappear.
Dr. Stefan Michel, Dr. David Bowen and Dr. Robert Johnston are European researchers who spend their time studying how customer service is done and they’ve discovered another triangle which can prevent your product from disappearing. This triangle consists of your customers, the product manager, and the customer service rep. They just might have solved this mystery once and for all…
It turns out that customers who have a complaint are most interested in fairness. They feel that your product has wronged them and they want to have things put right. But that’s not all.
Not only do customers want things put right, but they also want how the product failure was allowed to occur in the first place and what you are going to do to make sure that it never happens again. Oh, and they want all of this information in a reasonable amount of time.
Here’s the important part: there’s something called the “recovery paradox” in which a customer can end up being more delighted by a skilled service recovery than they were with the product in the first place.
My last experience like this occurred when I purchased an iPod adapter for my car’s stereo system from the electronics supply store Crutchfield. I was installing the adapter, ran into some problems of my own making, and ended up having to call them for help. They talked me though what I was doing, pointed out what I was doing wrong, and solved my problem in about 10 minutes. I now love these guys.
The product manager’s role in dealing with customer complaints is to use the complaints to change the product so that the problem never happens again. The key to doing this successfully is to ensure that there is good information flow between the customer service team and the product mangers.
There have been some great studies that show that the more complaints that come in, the less likely a product manager is to talk to the customer service team – who wants to hear more bad news about your product? That’s just wrong.
The final side of this triangle is the customer service rep. It turns out that customer service reps get the most job satisfaction when they are able to solve customer problems. However, they often get little support from product managers to do this.
In order to provide these front-line employees with the support that they crave, a product manger needs to make sure that they are equipped with the information and the training that they need to effect a service recovery. Additionally, a feedback loop needs to be set up so that the product manger can communicate the product changes that are being put in place as a result of previous complaints.
In the end, no one person can resolve a customer complaint. It really does take a triangle of staff working together to make sure that an angry customer doesn’t get lost forever.
Do you work with your customer service staff? Do you have a feedback loop set up to communicate changes that are being made to your product? Do you play a role in training your customer support staff? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.