Customers are equivocally complaining about some aspect of your product.
I just watched the 15-minute video of Steve Jobs iPhone 4 July 16th Press Conference and I was very impressed the way he handled the situation. So next time something like that happens to me I am going to note what I've learned from this lesson.
Before you contact the customer the following preparation should be made:
- Gather as much facts and historical information about the performance of the product, for example issue call or email history from the customer or other customers, and the same for other similar customer set. Note: This is why you should rigorously record all issues using some type of database.
- Know the workarounds. In other words, don't even contact the customer or give a conference before you know the workarounds.
- Be prepared with the software patch but do not release it before you contact the customer. Since visibility of your effort is important, do not install it until the customer can expect to see the improvements.
While contacting the customer:
- First, create a less stressful and friendly atmosphere. Tell jokes, other stuff.
- Begin with a positive tone by saying that your product is the best available, worked hard on it by best people and if you do have good reviews and so forth, tell them about that.
- Next, indicate that you are puzzled why the customer is making such claims to the best product available.
- But show that the customer is always right, so you say that "we have started to look into it."
- First, say: "Nothing is Perfect. You know that, and I know that."
- With not-so-surprised expression, talk about similar situations on other similar products. Tell customers that it is not just "our" product that is having the issue. Bring up the facts by video or verifiable statistics.
- With a surprised expression (if your number is actually lower), explain about the claim by other verifiable (or at least authentic) figures such as previous dissatisfaction statistics (number of issue tickets, number of returns).
- If you have a patch, inform the customer about it and then release or install it.
- Deny most of allegations, but admit a little
- Offer workarounds until the issue is completely solved, including refunds if that's possible.
Although a very successful strategy from end to end, some people may see through it. All standard procedure for Lawyers and politicians in how to get your way. Nothing really new.
What I really take exception to is:" don't even contact the customer or give a conference before you know the workarounds." Wait too long to come clean and you can be in serious trouble. It is bad business and bad politics, and can be perceived as arrogance. You have to let people know you are frustrated by the issue, and are working diligently to resolve it. Keep um on your side or they may get rid of you.
I totally agree with you. Actually the whole think look more like some sort of a court room presentation. Probably this was scripted partly by the legal department.
In terms of "not contacting customer" I do see a value in a bit of fact finding before we talk. There has been many cases in the past we reacted too soon and gave too much emotional control to the customer which ended up not productive. Contacting in terms of telling them that "we are on it." and also indicating the type of things I am looking at may be the way I would handle. This is a bit of balancing act.
Another take-home for me is that of not being apologetic. This is important for me because in Japanese culture, apology does not necessarily mean that I am admitting a guilt, it just indicate the compassion for the situations we are all in sort of thing. Since I still tend to do that this gave me more clear way to fend off tough situations involving problems.
Good stuff and I should keep a copy for work.
I believe that if the customer has complained about a problem, that you know is a problem, you should do them the courtesy of acknowledging the fact to reduce frustration and help to diffuse the negative energy of the customer having to convince you it is a problem. Once you admit it, it takes a big head of steam off the customer interactions with you.
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