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Building a Customer Service Alert System that works

customer service alert system

Let’s set the scene

Just like a smoke alarm can help you act when there’s fire, a customer service alert system can help you act quickly on customer issues. It’s a method of alerting the right person in real time when a customer sends a signal of dissatisfaction into your business.

It could be an email, a text message or a dashboard alert, but it signals the start of a process to investigate and resolve the issue and recover the customer. It closes the loop between the feedback and the customer to ensure their issue is rectified.

In this article, we show you why you might want to implement a customer service alert system, what a great one looks like – and how you can evaluate the performance of an existing alert system.

Why should you use a customer service alert system?

The biggest benefit of an alert system is obvious – it helps you to know when customers need your help. But the flow down benefits from acting quickly are also huge.

Responding immediately to unhappy customers prevents them from amplifying their unhappiness.

  • Dissatisfied customers will share their negative experience with anywhere between 9 to 15 people either in person or through social.
  • 13% of unhappy customers will even tell more than 20 people!

Acting quickly means that their grievances don’t have enough time to be broadcast to their network – preventing bad word of mouth from spreading.

Quicker action is also more likely to lead to return customers.

“Of the customers who register a complaint, between 54 and 70% will buy again if their complaint is resolved. The figure goes up to a staggering 95% if the customer feels the complaint was resolved quickly.”

(Service America, Albrecht and Zemke).

Responding to an alert quickly makes a huge difference in how much good faith you recover from a disappointed customer.

If you’ve not considered the Service Recovery Paradox before, it’s worth taking a look.

An alert might also be a signal of something bigger. In an outage, you might hear from a few customers quickly, but the vast majority will leave without reporting issues. In fact – only one out of every 25 customers will complain – so if one customer mentioned it, there’s probably 24 others who have seen it and not said anything.

Knowing early means you can prevent issues from occurring on a larger scale.

Finally, implementing a customer service alert system turns your feedback process from a one way information flow to a closed loop system. If customers are taking the time to pass on feedback, they deserve an immediate response.

So many surveys are one-way: customer provides feedback, results are amalgamated and a report compiled internally. Triggering alerts and responses allows the loop to be closed for the customer. You can improve the customer experience, one customer at a time.

Customer service alert system, closing the loop on customer feedback

Features of a robust Customer Alert System

In order to build a robust alert process, there’s a few essential features that will give you the best chance of resolving issues quickly.

Surveys with context

You need to be able to follow up with unhappy customers – and you can’t do that if the customer’s name and contact information isn’t available to you.

For those who are concerned about confidentiality, rest assured, customers are overwhelmingly happy to give up their anonymity in order to have their issue resolved. Hill, Roche and Allen explain in their book Customer Satisfaction: The Customer Experience Through the Customer’s Eyes that “the benefits of a hot alert system outweigh the potential need for confidentiality”

Real time responses

When a customer submits feedback, it needs to be processed immediately. Once it’s processed, alerts need to be triggered to the right person (more on that below). If reporting is only cycled every 24 hours, or even every few hours, you could miss your chance to act quickly.

A variety of alert mediums

Depending on the severity of issue, you might need different methods for alerting the right person.

If you’ve got a 24 hour team for managing alerts, a dashboard could be all you need. While email alerts are okay for most situations, they can also be easily ignored. If you’re on call, or away from your computer, text messaging will usually generate a quicker response. It might make sense to have minor issues filtered to emails, and more severe ones using text messaging alerts.

Alerting the right person

Once you’ve got real time, contextual alerts set up, you’ll need to make sure they are routed to the right person. The owner of the alert system needs to have the authority to resolve issues, and the ability to escalate when necessary. If you’re notifying people who can’t (or won’t) act on complaints, you lose all the benefits of what you’re trying to achieve.

It’s also important to have a plan if more people need to be involved – for example, an operations team. Planning out crisis communications before they happen will help you act quickly when the alarm needs to be raised.

Evaluating the performance of your new process

If you’ve invested time and effort in setting up a customer service alert system, you’ll want to make sure it’s having the effect you want – happier customers!

Here’s a checklist to follow:

  • Confirm that alerts are being responded to. Look at the percent of customers who’ve received a response after providing feedback. You should be aiming for a 100% reply percentage for unhappy customers as a minimum.
  • Review the average response time on follow-ups. Is it improving now that you’re directly alerting the person responsible for following up? For unhappy customers, you’ll ideally want to respond in under an hour.
  • Send separate follow up surveys to customers who were previously unhappy, and ask if the follow up resolved their issues. Have you managed to convert them to happy customers?
  • Finally, it’s a bit more difficult, but you can also track future activity of customers who’ve reported issues in the past. Have they defected? Or are they continuing as loyal customers? At the end of the day, the purchasing actions of customers is the most important metric you have.

Get started with your very own customer service alert system

Building a closed loop feedback system will pay off by preventing issues from getting out of hand and powering up your ability to recover unhappy customers.

Getting an early alert system in place before something goes wrong can help make a bad situation much more manageable. You’ll see benefits of a quick follow up in the form of happier, more loyal customers.

Check out Customer Thermometer’s Real Time feedback dashboard

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