Who can forget the now infamous Target hacking? During the 2013 holiday season, the company suffered a massive data breach where hackers stole the credit card and personal information of perhaps as many as 110 million customers. The network security breakdown is still being scrutinized and, for now, it remains unclear what steps the company might have taken to prevent the breach. What is not disputed, however, are Target’s major failings in the quality of its customer service.
Target’s follies, however, cast a spotlight on broader business lessons that can be learned, serving as a reminder of the extreme importance of excelling when it comes to customer service:
Takeaway #1: Prepare for the worst case scenario
Taking a proactive approach to service doesn’t mean that you expect something catastrophic will happen—it just means you are prepared if it ever does. Most customer service issues won’t produce the number of queries that Target’s breach did; however, businesses should adopt scalable solutions for one-off scenarios that call for extra capacity. Customers simply don’t want to hear that a situation was isolated and will never happen again; they care about resolving their problems quickly and courteously and you should, too.
Takeaway #2: Renew focus on agent training and quality of customer interactions
According to Forrester, only 31 percent of organizations closely monitor the quality of interactions with customers. In the meantime, anything could be happening; agent slip-ups, multiple transfers and best practices could be falling through the cracks. Paying close attention to client communications—and coaching agents to help them improve—is vital to keeping your head above water when the pressure is on. In Target’s case, many customers complained about what they perceived as a lack of empathy from agents. The fact is, without a solid foundation in empathy training, your representatives are not going to best prepared in a high-stress situation. A positive and respectful attitude must be cultivated during training and continually developed over time. Once this best practice is created it must also be maintained.
Takeaway #3: View every customer service challenge as an opportunity for service recovery
A data breach or any other customer-centric problem is an undesirable position for any company, but it can also be viewed as an opportunity for excellent service recovery. These potential crises can be stressful but they also give your company a chance to show customers how important their business is to you. Service recovery is more than a simple apology—it’s about going the extra mile to rectify the situation. In some cases, this may require checking back in with customers several times to ensure that they are still satisfied with the resolution. As the great American businesswoman Mary Kay Ash once said, “Every failure, obstacle or hardship is an opportunity in disguise.”
Unfortunately, no business is immune to mishaps. How those problems are handled, however, is critical to preserving customer relationships and bolstering brand image. According to a recent consumer survey from Zendesk, 87 percent of customers believe brands need to work harder to create a seamless consumer experience, meaning there is a lot of room for improvement out there. So rather than allowing Target’s situation to strike fear in your workforce, take the opportunity to learn from it and make sure you are prepared for whatever comes your way.