Customers who take the time to complain are more likely to come back, even if the complaint wasn’t handled to their satisfaction.
- Of those who take the time and trouble to complain, 70% will come back if their complaints are resolved. That jumps to 95% if the complaints are resolved quickly.
- The average customer who complains tells 10 people about their “problem.” About 13% will tell 20 or more people. This number is even higher now with social media services such as Yelp, Facebook, AngiesList, etc!!
- Customers whose complaints are satisfactorily resolved tell an average of 5 people about their good treatment. These other 5 people are often prospective customers.
How do we handle these valuable people and their complaints? Here are some tips:
- Let your customer talk. That sounds simple, but one of your first reactions is probably going to be to defend and explain yourself. Stifle that urge. Just listen, really listen. Pay attention and be absolutely certain you really hear and understand what the customer is saying. Don’t expect the customer to voice the complaint in a sane and quiet way. Stay calm and be patient even if they are totally unreasonable and unpleasant. You’ll be glad you did.
- Let the customer know you care. Try to see the situation from their perspective. Don’t automatically assume the blame until you have all the facts. Even if the complaint sounds minor to you, it obviously must be important to the customer.
- When the customer sounds like he is finished, summarize in your own words what you think they said. Ask questions which reflect your understanding of what they said. Get all the details. Ask who, what when, where, how, how often, how much, how fast or slow, and anything else you can think of that’s pertinent. This accomplishes three things: it clarifies for you and the customer what they are complaining about, it makes the customer pause to think about what he or she really means, and it gives you time to think about how you’ll resolve the complaint.
- When you’re done with the last step, sum everything up - review the facts with the customer, especially if the problem is complicated. This ensures that you and the customer understand the problem.
- Ask the customer what he or she would like you to do. Most of the time what they would like you to do is far less than what you would have been willing to do. Mostly, your customers want your understanding, your caring and your assurance that the same mistake won’t happen again.
- Tell the customer exactly what you intend to do - even if you can’t solve the complaint immediately.
- Do whatever your customers asks you to do (within reason) even if you think the complaint is not totally justified. And do it quickly. It is most important that the customer be satisfied as quickly as possible.
- Don’t pass the buck. To blame someone else, even if they are really at fault, is sending the wrong message to your customer. In effect, you are telling them you aren’t willing or able to get the people who you work with to handle their responsibilities.
A final note: here is the success “secret” of a highly successful businessman: “I take all the customer nobody else wants. I go out of my way to get the complainers, the tough customers, the ones who are never satisfied, the ones who keep demanding more and scream bloody murder when they don’t get it. These are the best customers to have. For one thing, they’ve been around; they know good service when they see it and they know how rare it is. So, they stay with you. They don’t go running off the first time someone else dangles a special deal in front of them. Their friends know how hard they are to please so they tend to follow them, to take their advice and recommendations. This supplies me with a steady stream of new customers. Also, by sounding off, they teach me things about what customers like and dislike, what they think is important. But most of all, they keep me and my employees on our toes; they won’t let us get careless or overconfident for a moment.”