WHY ‘YOUR SERVICE IS TERRIBLE” IS A GIFT FROM YOUR CUSTOMER
A small business owner posed this question about customer’s complaints on Quora:
‘One of your customers has just told you, “The service here is terrible.” What should you say?”’
The answers were as canned as the recommendations: Take it in a positive way, apologize, empathize and tell the customer that we will mend up everything that went wrong asap!” and “Our deepest regret for your inconvenience caused. We are adamant about changing your opinion about us and please allow us another chance.”
There are a few things companies do that will make sure I don’t return but telling me you’re sorry when you and I know you’re not, is at the top of the list.
Customer comments, but especially the complaints are a gift from the customer. How else will you truly know what your customer is experiencing? Your customer has taken their precious time to complain in person, email you or call to tell you what was wrong, giving you the opportunity to learn firsthand what is working and what isn’t. Not all complaints are valid and not all are the same but as Bill Gates pointed out: “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”.
So how should you answer the question?
3 TIPS TO MINE THE GOLD FROM YOUR CUSTOMERS COMPLAINTS
#1: BE YOUR CUSTOMER
To understand the customer experience, you need to experience what it is like to be your customer. Call in an order, make a reservation, buy something and try to return it online, call your customer service or quietly observe a customer experience your place of business. Disney keeps experimenting with new wait lines, first creating that snake line, then buzzers, apps and now Fast Tracks. After you experienced what your customer experiences, imagine the changes you can make to the customer experience. On the flip side, I suspect that most doctors’ waiting rooms are as miserable as they are because doctors never wait in waiting rooms.
If you want to know what your customers are thinking (before they tell you- and the world-on Yelp!) why not ask them? Ask them in person, by phone or email where possible. (Be cautious with SMS: some people pay for incoming texts and get annoyed). Don’t ask in a self-serving way, a question disguised as an excuse or accusation. The point is to find out what happened, to learn, to uncover, to keep improving.
The funny thing about customer service is that we are all customers. When was the last time you were annoyed by lousy service? How did you want the business to respond to you when you complained? What kind of question, was their response genuine or canned? Channel this experience and treat your customer the way you want to be treated.
But #2 is a waste of time if you don’t practice #3.
Listen! Feedback is a waste of time if you don’t pay attention and listen. When my sisters and I were teens, we complained that our father was becoming hard of hearing. After rigorous tests, he was told that his hearing was fine but his listening needed improvement (he had 3 teenage girls so I think he stayed hard of hearing till we left home).
Ask them questions, don’t apologize or make excuses and pay attention. You might spot an issue you hadn’t seen, or recognize a trend if the same complaints are repeated. Even if your team did nothing wrong, you gave your customer a forum to complain before he complained online. And you stand a good chance of turning that disgruntled customer into a happy one.
The same holds true for online complaints: monitor all the social media sites. Make notes in a spreadsheet and see if there is a pattern, if there are certain days, certain times, employees or products that evoke the most complaints. Respond to every comment (sorry but this is a must) and remember that what you write in response will be seen by many people for a long, long, time.
(A Bonus Tip) 4: ACT
Evernote CEO Phil Libin offers up a truism on listening to feedback: “Feedback is great for telling you what you did wrong. It’s terrible at telling you what you should do next.”
CARP Diem to resolve customer’s complaints
An article from Help Scout quoted from Robert Bacal’s book, If It Wasn’t for the Customers I’d Really Like this Job. Bacal’s practices are known as the CARP method, which consists of:
- Problem solve
In other words, take control of the situation with language that shows you are ready to handle concerns and don’t intend to play games (no “sorry…”). Acknowledge that you completely understand your customer’s concerns and won’t be brushing them off.
Next, refocus away from the customer’s emotions to the solution at hand, outlining how you’ll take care of it. Finally, solve the problem, confirming that everything has been resolved to the customer’s satisfaction.
In a world where the probability of selling to a new customer is 5-20% while selling to an existing one is 60-70%, where it costs 6-7 times more expensive to attract a new customer than retain a new one, the opportunity your customers complaints provide you with is worth it’s weight in gold.
But only if you mine it.