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.
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.