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Guest Post : Have I Got Your Attention Now?

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Admit it.  As consumers, we’ve all felt frustration . . . the confusing IVR, the long hold, the uncaring support agent, the seemingly Draconian rules that cost time and money.   It’s amazing more people don’t take to violence.  But sometimes they do.

Her name is Mona Shaw, a 79 year old with a heart condition.  She is a nice lady and serves as secretary of the local AARP, belongs to a square-dancing club and takes in strays for the local animal shelter. You wouldn’t consider her tops on the list of people pre-disposed to violent action.  But her phone service had been out for a week and no one seemed to care. Helpless rage . . . we’ve all felt it.

Ignored too often for too long and armed with a hammer, she visited the local office walking to the front of the line passing other waiting customers.  Leaning over the counter, Hammer Lady” started destroying office equipment. Once the damaged had been done, Hammer Lady asked the frightened customer service employees, “Have I got your attention now?”

Picture Courtesy : http://funnygurusdca.livejournal.com/1005932.html

Everyone has a little Hammer Lady in them. Scary thought. Luckily, more people don’t act in such dramatic ways. But the hammer of an emotional rant via social media can cause even more damage.  We didn’t we learn about her story in social media. The story found traction old school via CBS News, the Washington Post, and Dr. Phil, among others. To be fair, the story was extended via social media once it played in print and broadcast.
This quaint little story about a quaint elderly lady reminds us that today’s customers are less likely to stay silent and simply go away. They are emboldened to take action, often rash irrational action. It may be a rant to a neighbor. It might be letter to the president. It might be a Facebook-ignited wildfire. And in some cases it just might be a hammer.

These random acts of frustration happen when traditional means have failed.  Here’s the point. The best way to minimize the impact of frustrated customers “going toolbox” is to make your traditional customer service channels work better. But recognizing you can’t please 100% of the customers 100% of the time, what can you do?

Give customers their own hammer.

I’m totally serious. Tell them exactly how they can get your attention if traditional channels don’t render satisfaction. That’s better than an irate customer lighting the fuse with a mad tweet. Get control by giving control.  You may be thinking, “If I give customers hammers they will use it to beat us up.”   Many fear giving such a tool to customers undermines the integrity of standard customer service processes. “They will use the hammer instead of calling our regular people.”

The hammer is something to be used when the system fails rather than instead of the system. So when giving customers “their own hammer” it is important to include instructions: “please use this hammer if you do not find satisfaction through our normal channels.” Key word is ‘if.’ Indeed, the normal channels need to have integrity as the best and easiest way. In many ways, a hammer encourages normal service to be better.

Perhaps the hammer needs a less violent name. How about panic button, emergency alarm, or circuit breaker?   If your organization believes in the voice of the customer, doesn’t it make sense to make sure the customer has a voice?  And if they have a voice wouldn’t you rather they were engaged directly with you rather than the “open microphone” of social media?

Gary Lemke

Gary Lemke (@lemke) is Chief Customer Advocate at CRMAdvocate where he blogs about the customer experience, CRM, and the Contact Center.  Join the discussion by visiting crmadvocate.com

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