Turn Customer Complaints into Assets

by John Mehrmann

When a customer complains, it gives you the chance to improve your business in ways you wouldn't have thought of on your own. Make the most of customer complaints with these tips.

complaining customer
Image source: BigStockPhoto.com

Virtually every organization encounters customer complaints from time to time. Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the complaints and to lose track of how many satisfied customers say nothing at all. Even worse, sometimes it is hard to remember just how valuable a customer complaint can be to the organization. Contrary to how it may feel to be the recipient of a customer complaint, it is a wonderful opportunity if embraced with commitment and integrity. You can turn customer complaints into valuable assets.

First, it is important to recognize that the majority of customers who complain are loyal customers who care about your business.

Customers who take the time to complain are also taking the time to tell you what went wrong with your process, your product or your communication. It takes some effort for a customer to contact you and tell you how the product, process or communications did not live up to expectations. This is an opportunity to reward the customer for taking the time to contact you and to learn how you can make internal improvements. If you can fix the problem for one complaining customer it may help many other customers, including the ones who never contacted you.

Loyal customers believe that you want to know what went wrong, and trust you to make it right. Loyal customers give you a chance to fix the issue. If one customer complains, it is typically an indication that there are several more with the same experience. If a complaining customer is irate, it is because the customer is disappointed. If there are other disappointed customers who do not call, you can bet that those customers have already given up on you. Customers who are disappointed and do not complain are already lost, but you have a chance to save the ones who are loyal enough to give you the opportunity to respond.

The complaining customer trusts you to care.

The complaining customer trusts you to care, this is why the customer contacted you. Don't avoid them, embrace them. If a customer does not contact you, it does not mean that they did not experience a similar issue. The customers who to not trust you, or do not believe that you will care, do not take the time to contact you. Customers with similar issues who do not contact you are already lost. The customers who do take the time to complain are the most loyal customers because they believe in you, in spite of the problem that they are experiencing.



Remember that the customer is not complaining about you, they are expressing the dissatisfaction to you. You are not the problem, you are the solution. Rather than perceiving the customer frustration as a personal attack, think of yourself as a person that the customer is coming to for help. How you respond to the complaining customer will determine the long term loyalty of the customer. Take care of a customer who takes time to communicate with you, and you may preserve the loyalty. Let them go, and they will communicate the experience to many other potential customers.

Turn complaints into assets.

Fix the customer and then fix the problem. Your first priority should be to understand the personal impact of the problem with your customer. It may be that the frustration expressed by the customer is the result of some dynamic impact other than the issue itself. The customer may feel mislead by communications, betrayed by the organization, or suffered some other impact as the result of the original problem. Listen to the underlying message of the complaint so you can identify what it will take to reassure the customer and address the specific needs.

Once you understand the root cause of the complaint, you may have an opportunity to implement changes that could avoid a reoccurrence of the problem. This may be your opportunity to increase customer satisfaction at an exponential rate.. If you can not eliminate the problem, at least you can use the experience to prepare a responsible solution for other customers who may have the same complaint. If it can not be eliminated, at least you can plan and prepare.

Preserve loyal customers who take the time to complain. Use the experience to eliminate defects, plan for countermeasures and responses.

How much money is invested in sales efforts, marketing, advertising and the acquisition of new customers? How much are you prepared to invest in the customers who have experienced a problem due to your organization and still trust you enough to take care of them?

Words of Wisdom

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning."
- Bill Gates

"Too many people think only of their own profit. But business opportunity seldom knocks on the door of self-centered people. No customer ever goes to a store merely to please the storekeeper."
- Kazuo Inamori

"The customer doesn't expect everything will go right all the time; the big test is what you do when things go wrong."
- Sir Colin Marshall

John Mehrmann is a freelance author, industry expert and President of Executive Blueprints Inc., an organization devoted to improving business practices and developing human capital.

 
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