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Don't let the Grinch steal Christmas. A complete guide to Detractors.

Don't let the Grinch steal Christmas. A complete guide to Detractors.

There are few Christmas stories more iconic than Dr Seuss's "The Grinch who stole Christmas" that was first published in 1957. The story written in rhymed verse follows the Grinch, a grumpy, solitary creature who attempts to put an end to Christmas by stealing Christmas-themed items from the homes of the nearby town Whoville on Christmas Eve. As dawn arrives, the Grinch expects the Whos to let out bitter and sorrowful cries, but instead, much first to his shock and then to his rage; they sing a joyous Christmas song. This puzzles the Grinch, in addition to it angering him, till it dawns on him that "maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more" than just presents and feasting. With this realisation, the Grinch's shrunken heart suddenly grows three sizes, and he returns to Whoville, bringing back all the Whos belongings. The Grinch then participates in the Whos' Christmas feast.

Essentially, through the course of the story, we see a detractor being turned into a promotor through the actions of the organisation that caused him to be upset in the first place. Not only is it an entertaining and charming story, but it also reminds anyone in business that even the strongest detractors can be turned around through a little bit of effort.

Maybe CX doesn't come from a score; maybe CX means a little bit more.

What is a Detractor?

Closeup portrait of angry young woman, blowing steam coming out of ears, about to have nervous atomic breakdown, isolated black background. Negative human emotions facial expression feelings attitudeIn simplest terms, a detractor is someone unhappy with you. The unhappiness could stem from a variety of places – pricing, service, brand message, etc. and this person is not likely to carry on a relationship with you. In short, a detractors is a critic.

From a Voice of the Customer feedback perspective, the term detractor refers to respondents to a Net Promotor Score survey that has scored a 6 or less. These are deemed to be dissatisfied customers who will not recommend you, and in fact, actively deter others from your brand.

How to identify a detractor

Image of businessman examining objects with magnifierThere are many ways to identify dissatisfied customers, but when it comes to Voice of the Customer feedback, the use of the metrics Net Promotor Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) are the most common. 

CSAT operates as an indication of satisfaction with a particular transaction or engagement. It is most commonly measured by asking a customer to rate an experience on a scale of 1-5. NPS, on the other hand, measures the perception of the brand overall, by asking the likelihood of recommendation on a scale of 0-10. While CSAT is usually used to reach active customers, who have recently engaged with you, NPS is useful for overall perceptions and can be sent to customers who have not necessarily transacted recently (for example, newly acquired customers who have not yet transacted).

What is the impact of detractors on your business?

Business graph with arrow showing profits and gainsIt can be easy to ignore detractors, writing them off as an already lost cause, particularly if they make up a relatively small portion of your customer base. Often organisations favour deepening relationships with promotors and working on converting those who are neutral, however ignoring detractors can have a lasting impact on your business.

Financial impact

The simple fact is that detractors cost your business money. It’s fairly obvious that an unhappy customer is likely to take their money elsewhere, with as many as 50% of dissatisfied customers not only leaving you but opting to do so for as long as two years. Furthermore, the cost of acquisition of a new customer is as much as 5 times more than retaining an existing one. While the lost revenue of a single lost customer may be immaterial, once you start adding up all the hidden costs, it is no longer insignificant. This is further compounded by the fact that only one in every 26 unhappy customers actually complain. At the end of the day, there is a real bottom-line impact within a pool of detractors. 

Brand Impact

Whether in B2B or B2C, word of mouth has a huge impact on brand perception and thanks to social media, word of mouth is no longer limited to a customer's friends and family. Statistics show that a disgruntled customer will tell at least 15 people not to engage with your organisation, with this number increasing exponentially when the complaint goes online in a public forum. Public review, comments and posts last forever, and many potential customers take this type of messaging far more seriously than any campaign your marketing team pushes out. 

How long do you have to change a detractor's mind?

Young woman has a good ideaThere is no hard and fast rule when it comes to turning a detractor away from leaving. It depends on your responsiveness and if you can, in fact, solve the cause of their dissatisfaction. A good way of understanding the likely speed of churn is to group detractors into four general classifications:

  1. Those that have made up their minds to leave already, and are simply telling you why;
  2. Those that are frustrated and are actively looking at your competitor products, but as of yet have not cancelled with you
  3. Those that have been disappointed by a single interaction, but still have some faith in you;
  4. Those that use your offering out of necessity and as such are not looking at alternatives, but want you to improve based on their criticisms.

From a timeframe available to change a detractor's mind, the customers that fall into the last three categories offer the greatest opportunity. While they are disgruntled, they have not yet taken any action to seek alternatives to your offering. The customers in the first category are very hard to turn around, as once a customer has decided to leave, moving them from a detractor to promotor is essentially a new sales process – often the best outcome with these customers is to offer them a pleasant exit experience.

How can one turn a detractor into a promotor?

Concept of important choices of a businesswomanIt is tough to change someone's mind. It takes a deliberate and concerted effort to hear them, react swiftly and with empathy. Here are six tactics that can guide this process

Encourage feedback

Not asking customers for feedback doesn't mean you have happy customers; it just means you don't know about the unhappy ones. Being ignored is possibly the worst form of disrespect a brand can show to a customer, and can even in and of itself cause dissatisfaction. Customer surveys are a great way of gathering Voice of the Customer, but you also need to be available (and responsive) when the customer wants to speak. Perhaps the most important factor here is that the customer feels like you actually want to hear from them.

Respond Quickly 

Regardless of the channel used by a customer to vent their feelings – you must respond as soon as possible. Research has shown that as many as 90% of customers who complain want an immediate response and define immediate to be less than ten minutes. That is a frightening timespan, but by using systems that trigger immediate escalation and entrenching processes to react to these as they happen, you should be able to respond rapidly. Automation is a great way to ensure real-time responses, but it can also be the death of effectiveness. While a generic mail may seem like a good idea, for a customer that is truly upset, it may, in fact, be fuel to the fire. At the end of the day, what customers want is for someone to hear them and care that they took the time to give feedback – and the way that you respond can go a long way in improving the experience.

Listen with empathy

The more business moves towards automation, the more customers seek out human-driven interactions, and this is even more true when a customer is angry or disappointed. Perhaps the most important thing for anyone handling customer complaints to remember is to simply be human – to make the customer feel like they are heard and to really listen to what they are saying. By really engaging with the intent to improve during a call with a detractor, not only will you show that you care, but you will also learn how to improve.

Aggregate and study feedback

It is tempting to write off complaints as once-off events or to even blame the customer for not following the correct process. This type of reaction is not only certain to result in churn but also negates responsibility for service failure. Viewing complaints in isolation is hardly ever useful in driving organisational change. The best way to truly understand patterns or themes that are causing customer satisfaction is to track reasons over time. Such tracking will soon shine a light on the common root causes of dissatisfaction, allowing the organisation to effect changes to rectify and improve such. 

Close the loop

Replying to a detractor rapidly and with empathy is important, but it is not enough to turn that detractor into a promoter. To do this, you need to act on the feedback and offer a solution. The actioning of feedback is both an internal and external activity. Internally, changes need to be wrought based on learnings, and externally, the customers need to be told what has been done based on their feedback. 

Make them feel special.

Just like the Grinch, whose heart swelled to three times its size at the stories happy ending, your detractor needs to be made to feel special. Making a customer feel special is a tricky one and often very unique to each situation. It can range from offering a discount right through to sending them an apology note or gift or having senior management put in a personal phone call. Customer service recovery at this level isn't cheap, but it is effective. It not only increases satisfaction, but it turns potentially damming word-of-mouth into a great story that the reformed detractor will share with others.

Can you save everyone?

Realistically. No. Some customers are not compatible with your business, some have unrealistic demands, and others have a complaint so unique to their own situation that it is impossible to solve. In these cases, it is important to try and provide the customer with a satisfactory exit from your relationship, in a way that still makes them feel heard and appreciated.

At the end of the day, you cannot save every customer, but by acting quickly, you can turn the majority of detractors around. By formalising your feedback and response process, you can learn from your mistakes. In the long run, turning detractors into promotors is worth far more than the expense of dealing with an angry customer – it has a direct impact on both your bottom-line and brand image.


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