<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none;" alt="" src="https://dc.ads.linkedin.com/collect/?pid=238977&amp;fmt=gif">

Last week, we released the article Superior Customer Service: Your Loyalty Program’s Secret Weapon. In it, we discussed the importance of customer service to any business, but especially to those with loyalty programs, which rely on a positive customer experience to succeed. In part 2 of this series below, we give some tips on how to enhance your own customer service efforts.

I worked in a call center. Briefly.

Fresh out of college, I wanted to be making money as I searched for a “real job” so I took a position that was notoriously easy to get, at a place that would hire just about anyone.

Admittedly, this company put a lot of effort into training according to client expectations. However, it’s very hard to make a group of teens, job seekers, recently laid-off, etc., really care.

Confession time. Whenever I have to call customer service, I always cringe, waiting for that dreaded phone tree before I ever get to talk to a person.

I think my record is 18 selections before I got frustrated and pounded 0, which wasn’t listed but thankfully sent me to the operator anyway.

Seriously, I prefer to use a company’s website to find hours of operation, pay bills, and all the other automated tasks you usually find in a phone tree.

So unless one of your options is “If you would like to hear a duck quack” then I’m probably not going to find my answer automated in your system. No, if I’m resorting to dialing a number, I want to talk to a person, dang it.

Rant over.

If you do anything in public, eventually you will encounter a hater.

Running for political office. Opening a business. Voicing an opinion. Even something as innocuous as writing about loyalty will bring out people who strongly disagree. Some even get personal about it on occasion.

It stinks. No one likes hearing they’re wrong, or to be challenged in their beliefs. Most of us aren’t comfortable with the idea that someone out there doesn’t like us.

As it is, disgruntled voices can play an important role in our ecosystem. They question our stances and practices. They call out errors and offer passionate feedback. They help us discover alternative viewpoints and lines of thinking we hadn’t considered.

And when the hater is an angry customer, they present an opportunity to win them back - possibly for a long time.

In this article, I'm going to discuss how to find your online detractors, and how to address them. We’ll take a look at one important step to prevent them, a book about haters you need to read, and why you should spend time with those who love you the most.

I had waited weeks to take my wife to the Greek restaurant. It was MY restaurant. I didn't own it or even work there, but I found the small joint tucked away in a typical nondescript strip mall just a mile or so away from our home. The food was out-of-this-world amazing, the service personable and the prices cheap. Perfect.

The food was brought out, and I was so excited for her to try it that I didn't even notice my own plate. I just wanted her to love the place like I loved the place.

She took a bite.

No reaction.

Another bite. A slight look of concern.

"Well? Isn't it just the best you've ever had?!" I asked.

"It's...really dry."

DAGGERS!

The following is a true story:

In a previous life, before my days at Access Development, I consulted with a number of small businesses on marketing strategies. One of my clients was a managed IT firm that focused on end-to-end outsourced technology for small businesses. Exciting stuff, but a very well run business that just needed some help taking the next step.

We began executing on a two-pronged plan - lead gen on one side, customer retention on the other. We brought in new clients, then focused on keeping them through regular engagement and open dialog channels - we invited customers to offer feedback anywhere, anytime, on any communication channel.

Much to the client's surprise, their customers took advantage of these channels. Frequently. And my clients freaked out.

"I'm not sure this is working out," they said. "We're having to expand too much to service the customers. We don't like having to manage this many people."member benefits

This is where the loyalty marketing professionals all collectively slap their foreheads.

Try to count the methods companies use to generate customer loyalty, and you'll quickly run out of fingers. And toes. And the fingers and toes of your friends and family. A quick glance at our collection of loyalty statistics shows that companies are attempting a variety of tactics, and customers are lapping it up - if not necessarily always returning their loyalty.

Points and miles, punch cards, gamification, discount programs, insider clubs...brands have become incredibly creative in trying to capture the elusive hearts and minds of customers, with decent results most of the time. If a loyal customer is so much more valuable than trying to pull in new ones, then it's very much worthwhile to invest in any idea that can bring a customer back.

Which is why it's so mind-boggling that many companies are overlooking the small stuff that has a direct impact on a customer's perception of the brand. Specifically, there's one area where many brands are simply not doing enough.