Turning Negative Customer Interactions into Proactive Dialogue

A lot of companies tend to shy away from bad reviews from customers, but I believe it is extremely important to learn from them and engage with customers, so that we can strengthen relationships for the future.

I am a team leader at ESM Strata and over the past 12 months, I have been working on a project that we call, At Risk. It sounds a bit negative, but it is the process of us identifying (proactively and reactively) any customers or buildings we feel may be at risk of leaving ESM, and moving to another strata management company. My team and the teams at ESM work incredibly hard every single day to help their customers. Their passion is incredible and it is really disheartening to read negative feedback or complaints that have stemmed not from a lack of service, but sometimes just from a lack of common understanding.

Our At Risk work has involved a few different things and I want to talk about why I think it is so important, and talk to what success we have had so far.

The purpose of this work is to increase our customer retention and strengthen our relationships with existing customers. To do this we had to collect feedback both proactively and reactively from all of our customers, and put together a plan to overcome it.

This year we did two major projects to collect proactive feedback from customers. Firstly, we introduced customer feedback surveys using Net Promoter Score. We send out a Council of Owners newsletter once per month to council members at ESM. On the bottom of every email there is a survey that asks customers whether they would recommend us (From 1 – 10) and also a box to leave feedback. We have received hundreds of surveys back so far and we go through all of those results on a weekly basis.

The second thing we did this year was proactively call council members to check in with them and talk to them about the changes to the strata titles act. This was a very significant undertaking and was executed by an exclusive customer service representative at ESM. It was a great opportunity to provide our customers with a conversation with someone who wasn’t their strata manager. Her role was to listen, ask questions and then offer some education or information that would help them in the future. Feedback from these calls was also recorded.

Reactively, we also receive feedback from customers sporadically, on certain issues through a feedback from on our website, and also through other public review websites. A lot of the time we are unable to find the contact information for these customers and find it hard to work with them to resolve the issues but we do our best.

Once all this information is received, I work with other members of the ESM leadership team to navigate the feedback and put together a plan for overcoming any issues. The plan includes everything from working with the Strata Manager, to following up with the customer myself, to inviting them into ESM for a meeting or having a member of the senior leadership team work closely with them to overcome their issue together.

The overwhelming majority of the feedback we receive can be turned into a positive interaction. It is an opportunity for education, alignment and cooperation and so many positive pieces of feedback we have received over the last year has actually originated from something a lot of others would consider negative.

It is my view that the majority of negative feedback we receive stems from frustration, and the best way to diffuse frustration is through education and empathy.

When it comes to something as personal as someone’s home, strata issues can be very close to the heart. Not being able to do something, or not understanding why you can’t do something to your own home can be extremely frustrating. The individual standing in the way of all of that is often perceived to be the Strata Manager. As we all know, this is not the case, and this is where education becomes really important.

We believe that education is far more important than compliance. It is important to explain why something isn’t the case, or why something can’t be done, so that those individuals can be empowered with the knowledge they need, to make decisions in the future.

Then there is the empathy part. Often frustration can be disbursed through listening and empathising and when you don’t feel like you are being heard or listened to, it can make the problem worse. A friendly ear can speak volumes.

Recently we had a client leave a negative review for ESM Strata on Google. She was very upset with our perceived service and our company. We contacted her and learnt more about the issue. We discovered that there was a misunderstanding about what the role of ESM Strata was in this process and there was absolutely a frustration on her part over something happening at her home. After speaking with her and supporting her with this issue, we got onto the same page and made a plan going forward. She is now one of our biggest advocates and even sent chocolates to the Strata Manager.

I wholeheartedly look forward to the opportunity to work with our customers, to eliminate their frustrations and strengthen the relationship they have with us, and their strata manager. It creates a better work environment for my team, and it also makes living in a strata complex, a better experience.

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