Every week I have conversations with clients or prospects about closed loop alerting (CLA) and how the process is working for their organization. These conversations always inform and educate on the realities of closed loop alerting and the creative ways many CX leaders are operationalizing their CLA practice.

These dialogues about CLA always seem to fall into 2 categories:

  1. Organizations that are realizing high value and are “all in” with their CLA practice
  2. Organizations struggling in their efforts and deriving little ROI from their CLA, and in many cases overall CX, practice

I always walk away perplexed from conversations with group 2.  Reaching across the aisle to unhappy customers simply seems like the right thing to do. And it is a relatively easy process since the company already has insight on customers and why they are unhappy.

If the logic behind a CLA practice isn’t compelling enough, there is a long history of empirical research linking higher customer satisfaction to positive business outcomes and more recent evidence highlighting the tangible benefits derived from CLA activities. Those companies not engaging dissatisfied customers are missing an incredible opportunity!

The reasons companies don’t embrace CLA are varied but generally include apathy and resistance to change at the executive and frontline levels of the organization.  Some executives simply don’t see the value in CLA. Frontline employees are often too busy to adopt a new practice until they are held accountable on a daily basis.

The good news is that with time, patience, and a few practical strategies, CX leaders can turn the tide and convince their peers in service organizations to embrace closed loop alerting as the indispensable game changer it is.

Here are the common arguments against a CLA process and strategies CX leaders can and should be using to advocate and prove its value:

Challenge: #1: “I’m Too Busy.”

The Answer: Spread the Wealth!


The current best practice for CLA follow-up dictates that frontline managers contact unhappy customers.  One outcome of this best practice is that alert follow-ups are spread across many managers instead of condensed into the workload of a few resources (where the follow-ups may be less likely to get done).

When working with clients to rollout this process we frequently hear managers say, “I’m too busy. I don’t have the time to follow-up with customers all day.” My immediate thoughts are usually: “Really, what could possibly be more important than making an unhappy customer happy again? Aren’t you ultimately in the business of acquiring customers and then ensuring they stay happy?”

When faced with this situation as a CX leader, it is often helpful to break down the actual number of alerts we would expect a frontline manager to see each month.  For example, let’s assume a manager has 15 employees and:

  • Each employee receives 12 surveys per month.
  • The organizations alert rate is 10% (this is high, by the way; most high-performing service organizations see an alert rate of less than 5%).

The above would result in 18 call backs per month, or roughly 4 per week. And yes, this number is not large but it represents 18 customers that can and should be saved. The added upside is that alert volumes, and follow-ups with customers, almost always go down as companies work their CLA process over time.

Challenge #2: “It’s Not Important.” 

The Answer: Remind Service Leaders that Following Up with Unhappy Customers is a Priority


If the numbers game doesn’t work, a more direct approach usually will.

A good strategy with this type of CLA objection is to ask service leaders to list their frontline employees’ top 10 daily priorities. With this approach, it is (usually) easy to get them to agree that following-up with unhappy customers is as important as any other task in their frontline team’s top 10 list.

Challenge #3: “It Doesn’t Make a Difference.”

The Answer:  Acknowledge that Complaining Customers Are Giving You a Chance to Retain Them


Most of us have been faced with a situation where a brand under-performed our expectations, and we simply left and never gave that company another opportunity. For companies with a survey process in place, a similar phenomenon can occur when customers provide feedback and then perceive that the company ignored the feedback.

When customers take the time to provide feedback on a service experience, they want to know that the time spent was worthwhile. If they perceive the company did nothing with their feedback, an already negative situation can become even more tenuous all because the company didn’t care enough to simply follow-up with a frustrated customer.

If you are a CX leader facing resistance with your CLA process, it can be helpful to ask executives:

  • What message is being sent to customers if we ask them to provide feedback, they provide it, and then we do nothing?
  • If we are not taking unhappy customers seriously by actively engaging them, what message are we sending to our frontline employees about taking care of those customers?

Challenge #4: “It’s Too Difficult.”

The Answer: Start Small


The CLA landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years. Today, it is common to see companies set lofty goals for their CLA practice. At eTouchPoint, we recommend that our clients follow-up with at least 90% of customer alerts within 24 hours, and close 90% of their alerts within 4 days.

These aggressive targets require buy-in from every level of a company. And despite the growing evidence of the ROI on CLA we periodically encounter situations where despite our best efforts and the approaches above, we simply can’t get a client’s full buy-in to implement a CLA practice.

When this occurs we have found that working with a client to set modest goals is a great first step to get an organization’s full buy-in on CLA’s value proposition. For example, set a goal of following-up with just 25% of unhappy customers. That translates to one follow-up per week per manager in my earlier example.

After implementing this low-effort approach, service leaders can meet with frontline managers after 1 quarter to talk about the feedback, the process, and opportunities to extend the CLA practice further. We have found that over time companies will see value from their CLA process, and frontline employees will realize the CLA process helps minimize issues they have to deal with over the long-term.

Achieving “All In” in Closed Loop Alerting


Establishing a solid CLA practice doesn’t happen overnight.  To follow-up with unhappy customers companies need technology, process expertise, and—most importantly—buy-in from executives and frontline leaders.

Achieving buy-in for any initiative takes time. CX leaders can accelerate CLA adoption by highlighting the value of the practice to other leaders and setting clear, measurable goals.

In addition, CX leaders need to get frontline employees onboard with the organization’s CLA practice. They need to provide training and hold employees responsible for addressing alerts and following-up with unhappy customers. CX leaders need to analyze alert themes and drivers to develop strategies to reduce alert volumes—and work with frontline managers to implement those strategies.

And CX leaders need to realize that building a CLA program is a marathon, not a sprint. CLA requires time and tenacity, but the wins will come—every time a frontline team member restores trust with a frustrated customer.

Buy-in can take time, but CX leaders can accelerate the process by laying out a vision for their CLA practice, articulating the value of CLA to other leaders in the organization, and then using goal setting and other strategies to move their company’s needle along the CLA life cycle.

Once those pieces are in place frontline employees need to be trained and held accountable for customer follow-ups and alert results. CX leaders have to routinely analyze alert themes and drivers to develop strategies to reduce alert volumes over time. And then ultimately work with their service leaders to implement those strategies.




Author: Chip James

Chip James is President of eTouchPoint, a pioneering customer experience (CX) technology provider that has provided solutions to Fortune 500 leaders for 15+ years. A CX industry veteran, Chip has been a leading CX advocate through speaking engagements and development of industry best practices. Prior to his work at eTouchPoint, Chip held leadership roles at Commercetel, Qualistics, and CGI. He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Virginia and holds an MBA from Georgia State University.