Making Nevangelists


Think about a bad customer experience you’ve had. It could be a customer service issue, or defective product, or rude interaction with an in-store or phone representative.

What was the conclusion? I’m guessing there are three possibilities:

A. No response or recognition by the company. You left disappointed, if not irate, never to return.
B. They dispatched a standard resolution to your dissatisfaction…in your mind, a compromise.
C. They acted quickly, apologized and delighted you with a resolution that exceeded expectations. Their actions earned your loyalty.

I’ll bet A gets the majority of votes. Followed by B. And you wish you knew which companies that have done C.

I want to propose a unique strategy to find influencers and evangelist. Find customers who had a negative experience, told you about it, and then catapult them into delight.

First, let me say this is not an excuse not to pursue excellent product and service experience. However, no company is perfect. Even Ritz Carlton occasionally has customer experience issues. The difference is they give even the janitor $2,000 budget limit to resolve them.

These, once negative customers, can turn into positive evangelists. They are, or can be, your “Nevangelists”.

Why is this a good strategy?

  1. Influencers, which could be 10-15% of your customers, are the vocal core of your customer base, positive or negative.
  2. It easy to identify influencers who have a negative experience…because they are typically vocal to the company as well as others.  So when the negative influencer reports an issue, it’s an opportunity to identify and act.
  3. A negative experience results in emotional momentum (energy), which can be reversed into positive momentum.
  4. Reversing a negative experience gives an evangelist a story to share, one that perhaps more important than your product, tells others about the character of your company!

The two principles to make this work are:

  1. Overwhelm  negative emotion with disproportionate and equal dose of apology and resolution.
  2. Demonstrate a permanent resolution to their experience, describing the steps you will take to correct the issue in the future.

For example, you can denote the severity of customer experience issues on an X axis. Then map the corresponding equal resolutions along the Y axis. Then deploy a resolution strategy so that for any issue (X) that Y > X. Here’s what it looks like:

The greater response does not necessarily need to cost more, but rather have a higher ‘emotional’ impact to the negative experience. For example, an apology from the waitress with a coupon for free dessert is not as powerful as the chef delivering the new steak himself with apology. And maybe at the end of the meal he brings a unique dessert creation that he wants you to review. A greater response is a  surprising, delightful, unexpected response

Finally, when delivering the resolution or after resolution (follow up via phone, email, etc.), demonstrate steps that are taken to prevent that negative customer experience from happening again.

All I ask is Microsoft tell me what they are doing with those “error reports” I send in when Windows crashes!

3 Responses

  1. Good question! Where do those damn reports go? 😉
    Not to brag, but we always do C…BECAUSE IT WORKS! When we first launched our site in April 2005, we had some billing issues and accidentally billed someone twice for their order without realizing it. THIS GUY WAS PISSED! But we met his negativity with sincere apology, explanation of how the software screwed up and how we were going to fix it, fixed the double-billing, and (I think?) gave him a coupon for a free bottle of Probiotics.
    To this day, this is one of our most loyal customers.
    We had other problems in shipping when we first started out. Orders going to the wrong address. Mis-counts, wrong bottle size, etc. It was really painful but in every case, we expressed sincere regret, overnighted the correct order and let the customer keep the wrong things we sent. It actually worked so well and has created such loyal customers that I’ve wondered if we should screw up a few shipments on purpose, just to show the customer how hard we work to make things right. (Something about that doesn’t seem very sincere though. 😉
    Our customer service motto is: “Make things right and delight the customer! Pretend you’re the one calling in with the problem. How would you want Jigsaw Health to react?”
    Not surprisingly, our customer service reps LOVE doing customer service because they know they are empowered to do literally anything necessary to please the customer. It’s that important.
    Great post Sam!

  2. Mark says:

    I once had to wait at Max and Erma’s (a restaurant similar to Applebees) for about 10 or 15 minutes to be seated. The place was 75% empty so it wasn’t clear what the delay was. I went to their website and sent them a note saying that from my perspective it was very inconvenient and in the future they might want to consider at least getting customers to a table instead of making them stare at empty seats while they stand there.
    A few weeks later I got a nice note back from them apologizing along with a $10 gift certificate. I was impressed and set the certificate on my desk. Several weeks later, we still hadn’t gone back. I received another follow up not along with an additional gift certificate. They were tracking the certificate to make sure I came back! When I never showed up, they sent me another one.
    I was very impressed with their follow through and the effort they put into trying to get me to come back once more.

  3. Tom Bailey says:

    This is a great article. I like the matrix you designed here.

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