What? Unknown damage to your brand? How do you even know it is happening if it is “unknown?”

“Well that doesn’t happen with our brand,” you say. “We have a great product. When we hear about a customer with an issue, we do what we can to keep them happy. We get great scores on our surveys. We have lots of loyal, repeat customers, who are obviously satisfied with our product and service. I really don’t think we have a problem with unknown damage.”

It may be difficult to hear, but it’s a pretty safe bet that your brand has experienced some damage, at some point. Maybe it wasn’t a recall crisis or an angry customer spewing vitriol across the Internet. But if you have even one dissatisfied customer who does not make another purchase, then your brand has been damaged.

“It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”—Benjamin Franklin

According to Forrester Research an average of 30 percent or more of a brand’s customers have poor experiences but only two percent actually complain. That is a frightening statistic. If only two percent complain—what do the other 28 percent do? They might quietly stew. They might share their negative experience and recommend people don’t do business with that brand—and they certainly won’t either. Quite simply, the brand has been damaged and since the customer didn’t complain directly…the brand has no idea it has a dissatisfied customer and can’t do anything to save the relationship.

How can a brand handle that situation? Prevention is the key. There are a few measures brands can adopt to avoid as much unknown damage as possible.

  1. Solicit Customer Feedback Everywhere. Make it easy for customers to provide feedback anywhere along their customer journey. Proactively solicit feedback at all key touch points by embedding and promoting feedback links on your website, product pages, forms, shopping carts, emails, web chats and social media. Consistently gather multichannel feedback, then aggregate to analyze patterns and identify key customer experience “trouble spots.” Establish a presence on various social media channels and engage. The easier it is for customers to contact a brand, the more likely they will reach out with an issue. And that makes it easier for a brand to save a relationship at risk.
  2. Incentivize Customers to Provide Feedback. Offer a simple “thank you” or a “prize” for their time completing a survey or submitting feedback. For example, Starbucks frequently emails its Rewards members about their experiences and offers another star for their engagement. Since those stars add up to free beverages or food items—you can imagine Starbucks secures a lot of feedback. Try different incentives and triangulate on the ones that appeal to your specific customer base. Note that some people are more motivated by status, as evidenced by the rise of user-generated feedback systems such as Yelp.
  3. Empower your agents to be your brand’s eyes and ears. Evaluate and possibly revamp agent training to ensure everything possible is being done for positive customer experiences, each and every time. Empower the customer-facing brand representatives. Establish guidelines of what they can do for customers in various situations, and when to escalate. Ask them to document customer feedback in disposition notes. Reward them for providing feedback and improvement recommendations. Encourage excellent service with perks. Make every effort to ensure agents are ready and eager to satisfy every customer they encounter.
  4. Implement contextual routing to monitor situations and interactions in real-time. Once you know your customer experience “trouble spots,” you can fix them. Various tools are available that include real-time monitoring of online interactions. Have you ever had a live chat box pop up at just the right time? That’s contextual routing at work and it is invaluable to help brands “save the sale” and ultimately the customer relationship. If a brand can engage with a customer while they are shopping, answer questions, perhaps offer a discount code and close the sale—they will have satisfied the customer and likely prevented that unknown damage. That’s not to say the customer will forever stay satisfied…but if they had a bad experience, they may be more likely to be part of the vocal two percent instead of just disappearing and passive aggressively spreading negative word-of-mouth.

A multitude of studies have shown how much more cost-effective it is to keep a customer than find a new customer. Marketing Metrics stated that the probability of selling to a new prospect is between five and 20 percent, while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 to 70 percent. The White House Office of Consumer Affairs showed that loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase. Customers and prospective customers are greatly influenced by family members, friends and social media. The more proactive a brand can be to ensure customer satisfaction, no matter the situation, the more likely they will maintain positive and profitable customer relationships.