Customer crises strike without warning, and the chief customer officer must act swiftly and decisively to begin rebuilding damaged customer relationships. Over my years of experience working with scores of chief customer officers, I've found three steps that are crucial in successfully managing any crisis:
1. Build Strong Customer Insight Before Crisis Strikes
As owner of the customer you know the value of thorough customer research, but having detailed data is particularly vital when crisis strikes: Your unique customer insight must form the basis of a successful response strategy. By relying on that insight you will be able to specifically target touch points that will resonate with your customers, identify areas of the organization's plan that may exacerbate negative opinions, and determine the best strategies for mitigating that negativity. Have a comprehensive customer research program in place before you're faced with a crisis to ensure that the information is there when you need it most.
2. Focus the Organization on Customer Impact
It's all too common for the wider organization to focus on damage control--acting in self-defense, laying blame, or stonewalling. But this will only worsen already injured customer relationships.
Instead, it's imperative for you to lead the organization to focus on customer impact at every step along the road to recovery. This is not to say that every action must have a positive impression; we know there are times the organization must act despite negative impact. Your job is to ensure that at every step someone is asking the question, "How will this affect customers?" If the answer is positive, highlight it in a way that strengthens customer relationships, and if it's negative, use your customer insight to mitigate the damage.
3. Rebuild Damaged Trust
Incorporating high customer touch into routine operations allows you to rebuild trust while creating sustainable customer-centric change. Seek opportunities for reassuring customers not only within the recovery, but throughout the organization. Look for functions that can be updated or repackaged to highlight positive customer impact.
Share information with customers by updating call center scripts, or devise high-touch outreach programs to provide understanding about particular actions or operations of the organization. Customer trust will return only when customers feel they are receiving honest and forthcoming communication about the problems affecting them and the steps you are taking toward resolution.