Complaining is good for us.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day who said that ‘the management is putting pressure on staff not to allow customers to complain’. At the same time Mary Portas is actively encouraging us to complain when we receive poor service. Who is right? Well Mary is of course.

Loyal customers complain. They think we should have an opportunity to put things right. They will give us that opportunity before they take their business elsewhere. But most customers are not loyal. Years ago TARP did some research that showed that for every one unhappy customer who complained, 25 unhappy customers did not. However all of the unhappy customers told, on average, 10 other people about the complaint and each of those 10 told another five. So whilst the organisation gets to hear about one complaint 1560 people hear about the other problems. Shocking!

But this research was done years ago, long before the days of Twitter, Trip Adviser et al. Now a customer has a problem and the world knows about it instantly.

We need to know about our customers’ problems. Just because we don’t know about them doesn’t mean they don’t have any. They may not tell us but they’ll certainly be telling other people and that can really hurt our business. We need to encourage feedback from customers, good and bad and we need to ‘Google’ our businesses from time to time to see what is being said about us. Make a point of monitoring your ‘mentions’ on Twitter. Use your right of reply but don’t be too defensive. Thank people for the positive and ask the complainers how you can put things right.Then put them right.

I’ve heard a horror story today of a supplier that simply accused a complaining customer of using the complaint as an excuse for putting off payment. I’ve seen what she is complaining about and heard how much she has already paid and she is being ripped off. The customer has been reasonable and tried to find a compromise but the supplier has been totally intransigent. How will this win them more business? This case is now going to the lawyers otherwise I would name and shame.

In this day and age we need to ensure our customers feel they’ve had good value for money, that they were important and most important of all that they’ve got the product or service they need and have paid for. When they tell us that we have fallen short we need to put things right for the customer. That doesn’t need to mean giving a refund. Ask how the customer would like you to put things right. Solve their problem and they could well become the best advocate foryour business. Leave them upset or angry and they will tell the world.

Have you got a horror story to share? Have you had a good experience when you made a complaint? I’d love to hear your stories.

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