Impact Learning Systems


Hurrah for Customer Complaints Vasudha Deming

I received a call today from a client who recently com­pleted Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems'  cus­tomer ser­vice train­ing pro­gram for tech rep­re­sen­ta­tives: Get­ting to the Heart of Tech­ni­cal Support™.

This client is in charge of cus­tomer rela­tion­ships at a man­aged ser­vice provider. As with most peo­ple in his posi­tion, he receives a fair num­ber of cus­tomer com­plaints. He was call­ing to say that he had a big aha moment when learn­ing in the train­ing that cus­tomers who bother to com­plain are doing so because they value the prod­uct that they're call­ing about.
customer complaints Hurrah for Customer Complaints
He said he had never thought about it this way, and the con­cept was help­ing him to view dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers in a new light.

The sta­tis­tics vary, but they're by now famil­iar to most of us. They go some­thing like this:

  • A typ­i­cal busi­ness hears from only 4 per­cent of its dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomers; the other 96 per­cent just go qui­etly away, and 91 per­cent of them will never come back.
  • A typ­i­cal dis­sat­is­fied cus­tomer tells more than eight peo­ple about his or her problem.
  • Seven out of 10 com­plain­ing cus­tomers will do busi­ness with you again if you resolve the com­plaint favorably.

Doesn't this make you value the ones who bother to call and com­plain? An arti­cle on the Cus­tomer Insti­tute web­site 2008 has sev­eral addi­tional sta­tis­tics about the impact of cus­tomers leaving.

Fol­low­ing are four tips for mak­ing the most out of com­plaints received by your organization.

Tip #1: Make it easy for cus­tomers to complain.

Cus­tomers should have easy access to some­one in the orga­ni­za­tion who will take their calls or respond to their e-mails. I'm still not happy that my i-phone gets poor recep­tion in my neigh­bor­hood, but I am heart­ened that AT&T cre­ated an i-phone app that allows me to instantly report dropped calls (pre­sum­ably so that the com­pany can work on improv­ing my recep­tion in my area).

Tip #2: Treat them as valu­able cus­tomers, not problems.

When cus­tomers com­plain, thank them. Lis­ten to what they say and make sure that they feel val­i­dated. It's not always nec­es­sary to apol­o­gize to unhappy cus­tomers (although you should do so if your com­pany or prod­uct was in error), but do acknowl­edge their feel­ings and the fact that they're tak­ing the time to give you feed­back on your products.

Tip #3: Let them know what will hap­pen with the infor­ma­tion they've given you.

It's one thing for cus­tomers to feel heard, but it's some­thing else for them to feel that their com­plaints will make a difference—that's what they're really after. Ever wily Microsoft has cap­i­tal­ized on this need by bas­ing their "Win­dows 7 was my idea" adver­tis­ing cam­paign on the con­cept that cus­tomer feed­back (even the com­plaints) led the way to their newest prod­uct offering.

Tip #4: Train front-line staff to han­dle com­plaints from cus­tomers in a pos­i­tive, pro­fes­sional way.

The peo­ple who deal directly with your cus­tomers should be given the skills, knowl­edge, and sup­port to effec­tively man­age com­plaints and to see that they are con­veyed to the appro­pri­ate peo­ple in the organization.

Vasudha leads the Per­for­mance Solu­tions Team at Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems, reg­u­larly work­ing with lead­ing com­pa­nies to improve per­for­mance of their customer-facing ser­vice, sup­port, and sales teams. She is a lead devel­oper of Impact's suite of train­ing courses and has authored four books, includ­ing the pop­u­lar Big Book of Cus­tomer Ser­vice Train­ing Games, all pub­lished by McGraw-Hill.
5 Hurrah for Customer Complaints
Vasudha Deming
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  • Big Ears Strate­gic Mar­ket­ing, San Luis Obispo, CA

    […] many ways to make things even worse. There are also, thank good­ness, ways to make things bet­ter. This arti­cle, by Impact Learn­ing Sys­tems Inter­na­tional offers a great reminder about the value of customer […]

  • Eva

    I really enjoyed read­ing this infor­ma­tion. I am in the CSR busi­ness and at one point I saw com­plaints as com­plaints but after read­ing your arti­cle I have been given a new out look on the sub­ject of Com­plaints. Your absolutely right; we should be thank­ful for com­plaints, our cus­tomers would be the best can­di­ates to give us that infor­ma­tion on what the mishaps are in our busi­ness or depart­ments in that way we have a basis on where to begin to improve. IMAGINE win­dows 7 was in part struc­tured on the basis of look­ing into the bot­tom line of these com­plaints and com­ing up with some­thing as a more friend­lier win­dows pro­gram.
    Peo­ple love easy, there just isn't enough time to be learn­ing a new pro­gram to get the job done in a pre­cise and effi­cient mat­ter, time is money, and friendly pro­grams will get the job done more effec­tively and faster.
    Thanks, Eva

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