Customer Complaints Are Good

June 7th, 2016
Steven Howard

Customers Who Complain Are Customers Who Care

As sure as there are customers for your product, you can be guaranteed that there will be complaints about your products and services.

Why?

Is it impossible for an organization to deliver 100% customer satisfaction and 100% fault-free products and services all the time?  In a simple word: yes.

I have yet to come across an organization that doesn’t make the occasional mistake, or the employee who doesn’t commit the odd accidental error or who simply is in a grumpy mood that is reflected onto your customers.

So face it — complaints will happen.

And this is good. For customer complaints are good for you.

One of the worst things customers can do when faced with unsatisfactory service or a poor quality product is to not tell you and leave for the competition.  After all, if you don’t hear of the problems that cause customers to take their business elsewhere, how can you fix them?

Customer complaints are good for these:

  • Highlight areas that need improvement.
  • Identify procedures that cause customer pain.
  • Reveal information that is lacking, or erroneous, in your communications.
  • Identify staff who need more training or closer supervision.
  • Provide a check on consistency levels.
  • Surface policies that may be outdated.
  • Trigger positive change (if you take the initiative to act on the complaints).
  • Raise staff morale (through positive change).
  • Provide a method of competitive intelligence.
  • Provide bench marking from other industries.
  • Identify customers who care.

That last point is a critical one to ponder. Customers who complain are customers who care!

Sure, customers who complain often want some form of restitution for the inconveniences suffered. But most just want the organization to live up to the promises made, which ought to be the key objective of the selling organization anyway.

So while they care about themselves and having their own satisfaction levels fulfilled, they also care enough about future engagements with the organization to want to help the organization live up to its commitments and prevent future service delivery or product problems.

Otherwise, they would simply just walk away and take their business elsewhere (after demanding a refund of whatever money has already been spent on the unsatisfactory product or service).

Whether they are loyal customers, upset customers, wronged customers, disappointed customers, angry customers, right customers, or even wrong customers — customers who complain do care. (Okay, maybe not all, but certainly most.)

If your staff attitudes can be shifted so that they collectively and individually view complainers as customers who care, then your organization is in a much better position to learn from such complaints and to implement restorative steps that result in retrieval of departing and departed customers.

Unfortunately, too many organizations treat customer complaints as “sore points” that need to be counted, rectified, and forgotten as soon as the service staff moves on to the next complaining customer. This is why too much of “customer service” these days is reactionary and process driven, with managers and service staff monitored and measured in terms of efficiencies, quickness of response, and the number of complaints “handled” per shift, day, week, or month.

When complaints are handled and tracked this way, true organizational learning and the opportunity to turn complaints into new levels of customer satisfaction through positive change are usually lost. Forever. Or at least until an enlightened new manager takes over the so-called customer service unit.

Lastly, it is important to remember that all complainers have one of two things in common — they are all customers or prospects.

Service recovery starts with the way you handle complaints and complainers, a topic that we discuss in our book Powerful Marketing Memos on Make it Easy for Customers to Complain and Types and Modes of Customer Complaints.

Until then, remember that complaints are good. And that, for the most part, people who complain are customers who truly care about your future. Or at least your future with them as your customers.

 

Key Point: customers who complain are customers who care.

Taking Action: how are customer complaints handled in your organization?  Are they processed and handled as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then forgotten? What steps are needed to turn the efficient handling of complaints into learning opportunities for your organization?

How is customer service monitored and measured in your organization? What does your customer service “scorecard” look like? Does it include measurements for how lessons from the frontline are circulated to other staff, used in training courses, and incorporated into new employee orientation programs?

How can lessons from the frontline be turned into learning stories to the benefit of the entire organization and its customers?

 

This post is excerpted from our book Powerful Marketing Memos, available at Amazon in paperback ($10.88) and Kindle ($3.88) formats.

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