While we agree that feedback from our customers is important, we all dislike hearing a customer complaint. A customer complaint can be a real gift, if we listen and promptly resolve the issue. I have recently reread a book titled “A Complaint is a Gift”, and I will share a few highlights with you.
When receiving a customer complaint, it is important that you take the time to listen and agree upon the root cause with the customer. Don’t take the complaint personal and avoid emotional exchanges. A complaint is about a need that we are not meeting. While talking directly to the customer, specifically identify the need and formulate a plan to address the immediate need, if possible.
Apologizing with sincerity can do a lot to ease the tension of high emotions. Always keep the conversation focused on the need of the customer. The more options you can give the customer to resolve the issue the better. When customers feel dissatisfied with products and services they have two options: they can say something or they can walk away. If they walk away, they give us no opportunity to fix the issue. Customers with a complaint are still talking to us and giving us an opportunity to return them to a state of satisfaction so they will be more likely to buy from us again.
Customers who voice their complaint are likely to stay with us 75% of the time, if the issue is quickly resolved. Customers who don’t complain leave almost 50% of the time.
Customers who take the time to complain still have some confidence in our abilities to meet their needs. After all, customer who complain are still customers. Most who complain are showing some loyalty and a belief that we can continue a productive relationship.
Loyal customer are not easily produced, though disloyal ones can be produced in an instant. All indicators are customers who believe their complaints are welcomed and responded to are much more likely to reorder.
While we need to address complaints quickly, we need to track complaints and share them with others to get the most out of them. Keeping complaints to yourself doesn’t makes us a better company, but sharing them can. Even though complaints can help tell us how we are performing, just resolving them won’t help us avoid the same issues at other plants. We can’t be afraid to share our short comings.
Dissatisfaction with a company is a much more popular topic of discussion than satisfaction. To help control negative word of mouth, we need to insure that we are working to avoid repeated complaints on similar issues.
Most customers only want what they feel they are denied and, perhaps, an apology. So if we give them just a little more than the resolution they are expecting, they will likely reciprocate by not only continuing to do business with us, but also by saying positive things about how we do business.
Always remember, complaining customers are giving us a “gift”, while most dissatisfied customers don’t leave us with anything at all – including their business. Treat them as you would when you get a gift on your birthday – thank them!
— Bob McDonald, Director of Purchasing