There’s Gold in Them-Thar Complaints

Gold In Complaints

How Negative Customer Feedback Can Make More Money for Your Business

Nobody enjoys criticism, but when it comes to building a winning business, it can be more valuable than praise. It’s clear that dissatisfied customers tend to get in touch with you pretty quickly, while relatively few customers call just because they’re satisfied with you.

As long as you really hear and act on complaints, they can help improve your business. Think of each complaint as a golden stepping stone on the path to business success.

Well-Resolved Complaints Can Lead to Repeat Business

It’s hard to imagine that a complaining customer likely will become a repeat customer. But, according to one recent statistic, 70 percent of customers who complain will call on your business again, provided that you resolve complaints in their favor. Add another 15 percent of customers if you resolve their issues instantly.

Still, resolving complaints in the customer’s favor can be time-consuming and costly. The following suggestions can help you develop systems that help you avoid repeated mistakes.

Tracking complaints targets areas that need improvement

An issue is not complete just because you resolved it. You need to track and review them carefully to identify each issue that you need to fix. If you need help learning how to track complaints and disseminate them throughout your company, check out my recent STARTicle about customer support issue tracking.

Your team can’t fix problems when they aren’t aware of them. But, using the information to permanently resolve problems makes your business better while demonstrating how much you care.

When calling a vendor after finding an 8-pound dog food shipment down the street, their tracking system helped them to tell me that mine was not the only complaint about the shipping company — and that they are actively working to resolve similar issues. I’m getting free shipping on my next order, so I’ll stick with them for now. If there’s another problem when I order a 30-pound bag next time, however, I’ll find a new dog food supplier. I’ve always been impressed with their stellar customer service, but those bags are heavy!

Active listening can reveal hidden truths

Customers sometimes hint at issues that they don’t want to say outright, so you need to listen to every word of complaint without undue interruption. In fact, the fact that they’re escalating the call beyond Customer Service might speak volumes.

For instance, if my next dog food shipment is shipped by the same company and is not delivered properly, I might choose to escalate my next complaint to upper management. While I will recount my last experience involving a substandard shipping company, I can’t blame Customer Service; but my complaint may hint at another problem: a lack of employee empowerment. Maybe Customer Service should have the tools to redirect my future orders to another shipper.

Complaints can apply to internal or external issues

How many times have I told you that no business is an island? Even if you do everything right, issues caused by an external provider can make you look bad. To restore your honor, you need to identify the source of the customer’s complaint and resolve it without passing the buck.

In my very first job, I purchased automotive fasteners for resale. On rare occasions, someone in our warehouse miscounted fasteners in our boxes, but the majority of customer complaints involved poorly-plated parts, pointing to supplier issues. Since the offending vendor could or would not resolve the issue, I found a better one, and the complaints stopped.

Of course, service businesses also rely on the outside world. All too often, when websites function improperly due to issues with my browser, I’ve been told to install a new one, which I don’t want to do. My bank, on the other hand, takes responsibility even when issues are out of their direct control. They keep track of website errors and do their research. Sometimes, I have to take action on my end. But, they always walk me through a one-time process that permanently fixes the problem during a single phone call.

Customer error doesn’t exist

Notice that I didn’t say, “the customer is always right,” but as long as they’re right in their eyes, you probably need to take the responsibility, anyway. In fact, even customer errors might point back to failed communication or processes on your part. Look deep within your own operations to glean important lessons from the experience.

Let’s say that your custom software works perfectly during extensive in-house testing, but not so much in the hands of your customer. You know that the customer is making errors, but is it really their fault? Did you train them properly? Did your team observe their early use to spot and correct user errors? Whether they need more training, or even if you just need to create a few cheat sheets to guide them during the early days, your job is to identify and fix anything that prevents success.

Sometimes, Complaints are More Valuable than Perfection

A complaint-free business is good news — as long as you have examined everything about your company and determined that it’s absolutely perfect. But, don’t sit on your laurels just because your Customer Service team reports that they’re complaint-free.

Face it: nobody’s perfect. If customers aren’t complaining, then maybe their complaints aren’t massive enough to entice them to contact you. Or, maybe they just moved on to another vendor. It’s always valuable to make a proactive move to pull suggestions from customers — particularly if your sales data shows that you’re losing some of them.

Customer praise is nice, but you already know what things you’re doing right. The people who buy from you can point out areas that need improvement. Criticism is more valuable than feel-good compliments because it tells you what you need to do to retain your customer base while adding more to its ranks. Remember that if you respond properly, complaints can truly be golden.

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