Turn Customer Complaints into Conversations

Day 75: Your Unhappiness, My Laughter

Did you ever experience that sinking feeling when you opened an email or checked your customer satisfaction survey results and you were greeted with a complaint? Hopefully you don’t get so many customer complaints that you have become desensitized to them.

The first gut reaction to a customer complaint is often to become defensive. Your internal compass is sent spinning and you begin to look for someone to blame. What went wrong? The problem with the blame game is that it is not constructive and does not usually lead to change. Besides, as a small business owner, you should be willing to shoulder the blame yourself.

Instead of trying to make excuses and assign blame, you should look to use customer complaints as an opportunity.

Thank those that speak up

Not everyone speaks up. Many customers who are not happy just slink away. So, when one does voice a complaint to you, you should listen. Chances are pretty good that they are not the only one with the complaint, just the only one not afraid to bring it up.

When you get a complaint, simply thank the customer for bringing it up and tell them that you are going to work on fixing the problem.

Fix it

Of course, if you just make that promise and do nothing, you will still have unhappy customers. So consider each complaint thoroughly. Do a thorough examination of what went wrong. This is not to assign blame. Instead you are seeking to better address the situation. Sure, maybe one of your employees screwed up, but why? Did something get missed because there was no double-check system in place?

A customer complaint should put you into action. If your business is built around your customers, then you should do everything possible to smooth out areas that could cause a complaint.

Get more feedback

Once you do some research and come up with some ideas to fix the problem, contact the complaining customer again. Tell them of the action you are taking and ask them if they think this will result in a better experience for them. If they still aren’t happy, maybe you have misdiagnosed the problem.

Don’t forget to say sorry

Somewhere early in the process you should apologize. I would do it right away. As owner, take full responsibility and tell the customer that you will personally be working to improve the business so the problem does not happen again. You may also want to provide a discount to the customer if the issue is serious enough.

Conversations lead to friendships

Starting a conversation with a customer who complains can lead to some good things. First of all, you may be able to really improve your business and make it more customer-friendly. Secondly, you may be able to turn a complainer into a fan and a champion for your brand. I see stories every day of people who have complaints about a company but then get great customer service attention. They invariably change their tune and give credit to the business for really caring.

Remember, complainers are not afraid to speak up. And people who speak up are great to have on your team. So do whatever it takes to solve the problem and involve the complainer in the conversation. Your business will be better for it.

Creative Commons License photo credit: quinn.anya

Bradford Shimp is the publisher of All Business Answers.

4 Responses to Turn Customer Complaints into Conversations

  1. Jan says:

    Bravo! Great attitude to take here. Unless a customer is abusive it is best to look at what is being said and work to improve. I wish all business owners would read this article. Well done.

  2. bradfordshimp says:

    Thanks Jan, be sure to tell your friends :) .

    You make a good point about abusive customers. There are always occasions where you are better off firing the customer, but there are a lot more where you can not only salvage the relationship, but make yourself a real fan.

  3. Jan says:

    Bravo! Great attitude to take here. Unless a customer is abusive it is best to look at what is being said and work to improve. I wish all business owners would read this article. Well done.

  4. bradfordshimp says:

    Thanks Jan, be sure to tell your friends :) .

    You make a good point about abusive customers. There are always occasions where you are better off firing the customer, but there are a lot more where you can not only salvage the relationship, but make yourself a real fan.

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