The customer who complains to any business or organisation should be valued because many (the majority??) dissatisfied customers will simply take their business elsewhere and not even give you an opportunity to respond and act - but possibly tell many others about the bad experience. But isn't this in many ways similar to our own personal relationships? Let's consider some phrases that we might use when a relationship experiences problems:
- "I really care for you and I want us to stay together."
- "Do you really want to end this relationship?"
- "Why don’t you speak to me?"
- "Why do you find it so hard to say sorry?"
- "Why can’t you acknowledge my hurt?"
- "Why don’t you care?"
Comments from a marriage counseling session? Possibly. But they could also be comments of customers who are feeling unloved, who want a relationship to blossom but a problem has been allowed to grow and grow until the relationship breaks down with no chance of reconciliation.
It's such a let down when you tell someone you trust about a problem and they either do nothing or do little more than utter a few, vaguely interested reassurances in a weak attempt to resolve the problem. None of us are perfect and most of us are accepting of the odd mistake but we do expect to engage in a dialogue to make sure that something is done to put things right and prevent the problem from happening again.
But how do you treat these loyal customers who want an ongoing relationship with you? Do you make it easy for them to talk to you?
Up to two-thirds of dissatisfied customers do complain to the provider of the purchased product or service but many remained unheard. Why? Because the available channels are too limited and restrictive – businesses too often require the complaining customer to use the channels that the business prefers and so many customers have to go to a great deal of effort to have any concerns properly heard – spending valuable time writing and posting a complaint but often then faced with little opportunity to discuss the problem experienced with someone who is able to grasp ownership of the complaint and direct the process in achieving resolution.
Sometimes, communication within a relationship breaks down and we need some external help to get the relationship back on track. We may rely on the support of friends and family or we may get professional support through counseling and mediation. We can do the same in complaint management – having processes in place that allow for experienced internal or external complaint handlers to mediate and help both parties to find a solution that gets them communicating again and allows the rebuilding of the relationship.
But sometimes, the solution is separation and we have to recognize that sometimes we must let go of a customer. But we need to do so in a way that is understanding and clearly communicated.
Do you measure the customer feedback experience – do you understand the expectations of the complaining customer and how often do you match those expectations? Do you reassure your customers by letting them know how you develop and change for the better by listening to their comments? How often are you learning from your customers and acting on their feedback? Bill Gates, in Businss @ The Speed of Thought, made the great statement on value of the complaining customer: "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning".
Key learning points
Many businesses still look on complainants as those customers who are difficult and impossible to satisfy but businesses who value the complaining customer build loyalty, increase customer retention and build a good reputation in the marketplace. Yet, research continues to prove that consumers consider effective complaint and problem resolution processes to be a key differentiator for those businesses with good reputations in their marketplace.
If you want to build long and loving relationships with your customers then:
- Always be open to discussing problems with your customers