Encouraging Complaints?

Encouraging Complaints?

“Why on earth would you want your customers to complain?” you ask… Well, it’s not that you really want them to complain, it’s that if they do have a reason to complain, you want them to do it to you, not to the customer service 800-number.  What happens most often is that even if a customer has a complaint, they don’t do anything about it because it usually involves 40-minutes on hold waiting to talk to an under-trained customer service rep who doesn’t really know what to do with a complaint except to ‘let them vent’.  Now how is that supposed to build your customer’s loyalty and confidence in your product?  And how does that help you understand how to improve your customer’s experience?  Or improve the product?  Or gain customer referrals?  Or teach you how to better address customer concerns during the sales cycle?  It doesn’t.   The objective is to improve your own knowledge of the customer’s experience, thereby involving the customer which elicits increased loyalty, trust, and goodwill.  All these things are beneficial to the bottom line.  So, the question then becomes how to solicit this information from your customers.  The answer; pro-active and ongoing contact.  If you are in an industry where the salesperson continues to own the relationship with the client after the sale (recurring business, regular orders, etc.) then you already know the ropes here.  But for those of you whose contact with customers is more along the lines of ‘passing them on’ to the Production or Delivery organizations once you’ve closed the deal; we’ve got a few pointers for you.

  • You will have to track the product’s delivery and keep in contact with your customer during the delivery cycle and after they’ve had enough time to implement the product/upgrade or get into the rhythm of the service.  Ask questions like, “Did the delivery go the way you thought it would?”  “Do you feel I gave you an accurate picture of how this would all go?”  The answer to this question is particularly important if you are selling a service.  This can give you a lot of information that you should be getting internally, but since it’s common for there to be communication disconnects between Sales and Delivery; you don’t always get the scoop.  Asking this question will give you the insight you really need.
  • Remember; people have been conditioned through experience that complaining doesn’t actually do anything. Be persistent in soliciting feedback.
  • Be prepared to actually follow up on all negative feedback you do receive.  Do not reinforce what they already knew; that complaining wouldn’t change anything.  If their complaint is something that is truly unchangeable, let your customer know whom you’ve made aware of the issue, and that you will continue to follow up with them.  If you show quick and efficient attention to their issues, customers are likely to become loyal and gain confidence in you, your product and your company.
  • Don’t make the customer be the one to jump through the hoops if they do complain.  They will not want, nor be willing, to make too great an effort to participate in resolving the problem.  If they have to fill out forms, or you ask them to speak to someone else directly, they will regret having been forthcoming with you and will shut up tighter than a clam. Don’t force your customer in to the position of thinking to themself, “I knew I shouldn’t have said anything”.
  • Make it easy for them to complain.  If your company mails out invoices, have some postcards made up for customers to identify any areas they feel need attention. Include them, with your return address and already stamped, in the invoice mailing.
  • After having received feedback and taken action, don’t wash your hands of it until you’ve asked, “has your concern or issue been addressed to your satisfaction?”  be careful not to ask if it’s been ‘solved’ because you will not be able to solve everything, but you should be able to get the feedback to the right person and keep your customer posted on where the issue lies.
  • Honor all your guarantees, promises and warranties, whether verbal or contractual, and do so in a positive way.  Trying to skimp on your commitment to your customer is bad for business.  The misconception here is that customers will take advantage of you once they know you honor your guarantees, but the opposite is actually true; they will come back to you time after time because they know if something unfortunate happens, you will work with them to resolve it.