When Bad Customer Experience Goes Viral, Face It and Embrace It

By: Lisa Sigler

July 30, 2014

C3 Europe 2016
customer experience
customer experience management

It’s undeniable that stories about bad customer service provide catchy headlines. News outlets and blogs alike can’t get enough of incidents like a family being removed from a Southwest Airlines plane because of negative tweets. It’s certainly no wonder that a recording of a particularly egregious Comcast customer service call would go viral. Bad experiences make for good stories.

When something like that happens, of course it is discouraging and frustrating for the offending organization. A bad customer experience not only affects your relationship with that customer; it also damages your reputation among that customer’s entire network –and in today’s connected, online world, that network could be huge and global. The potential negative business impact can be significant. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

One bad customer experience, even if it goes viral, doesn’t have to sink the ship – if you learn from it. Even having a reputation of poor customer service doesn’t have to define you – if you listen and commit to change.

In fact, a misstep can be an opportunity.

A customer service failure can be the perfect time to review training, incentive, and review programs for customer service reps. A public snafu can lead to the perfect moment to make a plan to manage the customer experience across all of your many business units – and stick to it. A viral disaster can be prime opportunity to become so completely customer-centric that the next customer is not only surprised but delighted. You can even go so far as to confront the negative publicity head-on like Spirit Airlines is doing with its “Hate Thousand Miles” campaign – encouraging customers to express their frustrations and rewarding them with miles.

If you are willing to take this kind of bold action, you can use a bad experience to drive positive business change.  Don’t just issue an apologetic press release – fix the problem.

–  Identify processes that aren’t working and change them.
–  Figure out the root cause of the customer complaint and address it.
–  Find out what customers are really looking for and fulfill their needs in innovative ways.

And how do you do this? Listen to your customers. Listen to everything they are saying, in every forum. Look at survey data. Examine call center transcripts. Read emails, tweets, and online reviews. Customers are willing and eager to tell you how to improve their experience – so listen to what they are saying.

Ultimately, your customers are the ones telling your brand story anyway. Don’t let bad customer experience be the final chapter. If you listen and apply what you learn, you can re-define the tale and reach your customer loyalty happily-ever-after.


Lisa Sigler is Sr. Manager of Content Marketing at Clarabridge. For over 16 years, Lisa has used her writing and editorial skills to bring the value and benefits of technology to life. In her current role, she works to demonstrate Clarabridge’s position as thought leader and trailblazer in the Customer Experience Management market. Lisa holds a B.A. of English from Kent State University. Read more from Lisa on Twitter @siglerLis.