We don’t always think of customer complaints as opportunities, but that’s just what they are.
It has probably happened to you.
You get an email or even a phone call from someone who is upset or unhappy with this or that about your business.
Most of us don’t really care to deal with whiners or complainers, but, if you’ll just take a deep breath and take some time to think about it, many times they offer you some solid insight into your business that you would not have seen.
If you just react to their complaint without taking the position that their concern might be legitimate, you will lose many valuable insights and may very likely lose a customer.
After all, they are on the receiving end of your business, and you can’t disregard this. Whether they are just irritated or are really upset for some reason, you need to be prepared for how to respond. Take a deep breath and keep the following in mind the next time you have a run-in with a disgruntled or upset customer.
1. They often identify potential problem areas.
The cause of most customer complaints is failed expectations. It could have been something you said, or failed to say. It could have been something you did or didn’t do. Or maybe your customer is simply confused. Whatever the case, customers are usually unhappy because they expected something from you that didn’t occur, and from their perspective, needs to be remedied.
If the cause of their dissatisfaction is reasonable, guess what? They just helped you see something you missed, and now you can take care of it and make your business even better. And that is a blessing.
It’s best to make sure you make things right by giving your customer what they expected (if it is reasonable) and then do something else – give an extra gift of value to your customer and a genuine thank you for bringing it to your attention. Their jaw will usually hit the floor. You would be absolutely amazed at how this will turn even the most dissatisfied complainer into an extremely loyal and perhaps even a lifetime (and happy) customer.
2. The complaining customer represents others who won’t say a word.
If you have a customer who makes a complaint about something related to your business, you should assume the there are others who probably had the same issue, but never said a word to you.
It’s a well-established fact that the majority of your customers generally won’t utter a peep. They typically prefer to avoid confrontation, and so they will just leave and start doing business with one of your competitors. You want to avoid this like the plague. The best way to do that is to make sure you ask your customers regularly for their candid feedback. And then be sure to make adjustments and let them know what you did.
3. A complaint is often a wake-up call for what your customers really need.
It’s one thing for you to figure out what you think your customers need, but it’s even better when they tell you. Since most customer complaints are based on failed expectations, a complaint is an excellent opportunity to assess how well you are actually meeting the needs of your customers.
If more than one customer makes the same suggestion or complaint, guess what? That’s a clue you probably should take a closer look at an issue. You need to figure out if you need to tweak your sales message, your product or service, or the way you provide service and support. Whatever it is, its bound to improve your business because you will be responding to the stated needs of your customers.
4. When they are done complaining, they will talk with others.
It’s so important to remember that the way you handle a customer complaint is not the end of the matter! In fact, it’s actually much closer to the beginning. A complaint is a tremendous opportunity if you handle the situation tactfully.
This is because if you listen and respond to a complaint by fixing what was wrong, and send your customer off with a gift and a thank you – they will tell at least 10 other people about their experience. That’s called word of mouth advertising – the most powerful form of advertising on the planet – and that’s where your opportunity lies. And though it may not result in more customers for you, it just might – and in any event, it sure can’t hurt.
You need to keep in mind that this door swings both ways. If you fail to resolve a complaint, they will talk with even MORE people about it! This can cause great damage to your online reputation – a mortal blow to the trust you seek to cultivate with your customers and prospects, which, by the way, is the most important online commodity you have.
5. Your customer is far more important to your business than a prospect.
With all the emphasis most online business owners put into marketing, it’s easy to overlook this simple fact. A focus on marketing can be a distraction from investing more time on and with your customers.
If you treat a complaining customer with respect, tact, care, and genuine understanding – you might wind up keeping them in the end – especially if they believe that their concerns are appreciated and will be corrected immediately. Don’t forget, it’s far less expensive (both financially and in many other ways) to keep an existing customer than it is to find a new one. You might even want to follow up and tell your customer what actions you intend to take as a result of their complaint or suggestion.
And then be sure to follow-up with them again and tell them what you actually did. If they see that kind of response from you, what will they think? They will know you value their feedback – and for many customers – that makes all the difference – even if you fail to remedy the issue completely.
Keep in mind that ANY time you have an opportunity to connect in a positive way by giving a customer positive news is great for your business, and puts them in a better frame of mind towards you – which means they will be more likely to think of you the next time they need a solution you have to offer. Because you’ve effectively communicated that you are responsive to their needs.
6. Fixing complaints removes excuses to not buy from you.
If you invest the time and energy to eliminate the cause(s) of failed expectations your customers come up with, guess what you’ve just done? You’ve just taken away more roadblocks that might otherwise prevent them from buying from you. So, my motto is, I want to hear all about it when my customers are unhappy! Because the more I hear, the more I can take action to demonstrate that what they want is important to me.
Working to eliminate obstacles on their behalf causes my customers to see me as one of their solution providers – and ultimately, their best choice.
About the Author
Kevin Wirth © all rights reserved worldwide.