This post was produced in conjunction with iCIMS.  

As a consumer but also as an employee of a customer-oriented company, I know firsthand that service is integral for future purchasing behavior. For example, I am more likely to spend more money when I receive amazing customer service, and I am not the only one. According to the 2011 Customer Experience Impact Report, 86 percent of buyers will actually pay more for a better customer experience.

I find it compelling to see what companies do to delight their customers.  Recently, a very positive trend has taken shape as many companies are now investing in initiatives like “Voice of the Customer” programs and in-depth internal training efforts. These programs are designed to specifically ensure that the customer’s experience is not only excellent but also consistent across segmented teams and business interactions time after time.

Despite the attention and importance of the topic, it still seems that many companies drop the ball in one key fundamental area — the response to a customer when an experience falls short of expectations. The same CEI study estimates that only 1 percent of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations, and 89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. Let’s face it … no company is perfect, and there will be times when every business will falter in spite of best efforts or predetermined intentions. I believe, however, that the truest test of a company’s commitment to the customer experience is type of response given to customers in times of doubt.

If your business is not ready and willing to “do the right thing” when the experience you deliver goes awry, stay focused on the things to which your company will commit. A half-hearted commitment to customers is worse than no commitment at all. It’s as if you know what the right thing to do is but don’t care enough to follow through with it.

If you are ready to take on the worthy challenge of improving your customer experience, here are some guidelines I’ve found useful when delivering commitments to your customers:

Hire right

Do the people you hire believe in your brand? Regardless of the role, if employees believe in your brand and what it stands for, they will be more inclined to try to make others believe in it as well.

Own the issues

Even if a customer’s issue is not your fault, it definitely doesn’t mean that it’s not your problem! By making yourself part of the solution, you can satisfy an upset customer. This improves the customer relationship while strengthening the customer’s impression of your brand.

Empower your people

We have all heard the ol’ “let me talk to my manager” line. Nothing is more defeating to a customer than to be talking to the “wrong” person. If you hired the right team and they actively owns the issues, make sure to loosen the reins and let the frontline folks do what’s right by the customer.

Don’t let it fester

The reality is that empowerment comes with boundaries and some things are best left to be addressed by different resources in the company. That’s OK, but make sure that the escalation and the resolution happens fast! The more time a customer sits in limbo, the worse the experience becomes.

Many times, a customer’s impression of your business only goes as far as their last interaction with you. One bad experience can erase a thousand positive ones. Unfortunately, in the reverse, a negative experience might still linger long after a thousand positive experiences! It’s a tough standard, but that’s the reality. By staying the course, trusting your people, and truly doing the right thing by your customers, you’ll soon find that improving the customer experience is not so complicated after all.

Adam Feigenbaum is the chief operating officer at iCIMS, a leading provider of innovative Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) talent acquisition solutions.

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