While most business managers know that customer feedback is one of the most valuable pieces of data to build a successful company, it is hard not to let unhappy customers dampen morale. Responding to complaints and sifting through to find those that need to be immediately addressed can be time consuming and tedious. However, dedicating the effort of listening to and solving customer complaints can be largely beneficial for businesses. Here’s three ways to uncover value from unhappy customers.
1. Ask Them Questions
Founders of The Young Entrepreneur Council recently put out a list of 10 questions businesses should ask their unhappy customers. Among them were “what did we do to disappoint you?” and “if this were your company, what would you do differently?” Reaching out to customers who have complained can resolve some of the damage caused by their negative experience. It’s true that dissatisfied customers tell around 11 people about their experience. However, customers that are asked constructive questions like those above and get their issues resolved tell an average of five people about the experience. This not only rectifies damage from an isolated event, but also prepares businesses to prevent similar problems in the future.
2. Take Them Seriously
There are businesses who infrequently or inconsistently respond to customer complaints. This is a strategic mistake, as bad press can quickly spread about your business on web forums and social media. Take into consideration that 96% of unhappy customers never complain. That means that when a customer voices a complaint, they are especially upset, and can even feel personally hurt. Brushing off customer complaints is a mistake because many of those messages identify chronic problems about your business. To filter through complaints, it is a good practice to separate those complaints you need to immediately respond to and those that can wait a set amount of time. For example, look at the chart Followup.cc’s Suzanne Cohen developed for her business.
3. Brainstorm, Don’t Compete
All too often when a customer complains, the contact at the business tries to “win” the argument. This is the wrong approach, because what the customer wants is a better experience, not a competition with the business. Responding in this way will likely lead to the customer leaving the business for a competitor. Nickolas Duarte of Crown Chimp Productions cautions against the competitive reaction by saying “Instead of us versus them, [we] make this an ‘all in this together’ situation.” You can do this by consistently reaching out to the customer when any updates on the issue are available, admit where you’re wrong, and truly hear the suggestions made by the customer. Involving customers in the problem-solving process will make them feel personally cared for, leading to a positive experience in the end.
Diamond in the Rough
Dealing with complaints does not always have to be a bad part of the day. Often, there is enormous value hidden inside the messages of complaints. To uncover these “diamonds” of advice, it is essential that businesses address customer complaints by asking them constructive questions, taking the customer seriously, and approaching the situation with a problem solving attitude. These three strategies will turn customer complaints into pure value for the success of any business.
Erin P. Friar
Erin Friar is a Content Marketing Journalist Intern at Repsly, Inc. and is completing a Journalism degree at Suffolk University. She is a master of grammar and is passionate about creating fresh content to help foster efficiency and overall success in small businesses.