Working in Nicaragua we were surprised to see active volcanoes with large craters and smoke seething from their tops. Volcanoes usually offer a warning before “blowing their tops.” Sometimes, it is added smoke bellowing into the skyline; sometimes it is a series of minor earthquakes. When the internal pressure builds to a certain point, fire and heat go sky high; volcanic ash and lava spread way beyond the crater. The greatest tragedy is that nothing grows in the path of the lava for many, many years.
Customer issues are a lot like volcanoes. Customers typically provide warnings before they blow their tops. It could be a minor complaint or an unexpected change in buying habits. It could be an unexplained reserve or shyness on the part of the customer. If service providers ignore the signs of discontent and fail to intervene, they catch the wrath and heat of customer anger. Worse still, unhappy customers spew their “upsetness” to all in their path, severely stunting the organization’s capacity to grow new customers.
Beware of customer “lava” with today’s pervasiveness and power of social media. While the range of a volcanic ash and lava may be measured in miles; the range of a customer explosion, enhanced by the reach of the Internet, can be measured in thousands of other customers. What steps are you taking to read the hints of an impending customer volcano? What can you do to prevent the customer’s roar from becoming a major explosion that severely stunts your service reputation?