Managing Customer complaints

Defining Customer Complaint Strategies
It’s one of those sad facts of human nature-bad news spreads a lot faster than good news.
One large corporate study showed than when a customer had a bad experience, they told friends, and friends passed it on to their friends. In one example in the end, up to 100 people heard the story of how a ‘friend’ was dissatisfied with a company’s service.
Bad word-of-mouth (WOM) can be a real problem for a small business especially if it does not have the human power or business esources to put a Customer Relations team or part of the organisation on the trail of dissatisfied customers.

Strategies to avoid bad WOM.

  1. Tell customers right up front what you will do to help them if they are not satisfied. Implication – Very few will take un-due advantage.
  2. When things go wrong, apologise
    Implication – It will usually diffuse the situation – and the truth may surface from the guilty.
  3. Make an effort to work out the problem.
    Implication – Often the effort is more important than the actual solution.

An episode where a complaint was turned around by a PR initiative.

The case in point refers to an article that was written in a leading newspaper. The article was by a journalist that had suffered a bout of food poisoning from a roadside hamburger chain. The chain was not particularly large, focused across just 2 towns, consisting of 3 shops.

Unfortunately, the ‘bad press’ lead to a boycott of the entire chain.

Distressed, the managing director of the chain called-up the journalist. He apologised and suggested that she return to the restaurant for a special treat. In addition, he agreed with the classified section of the associated newspaper to run a special advertisement – consisting of a welcome statement and coupon for a free meal. The story goes that there was a good return to business soon after.

Is there such a thing as a service crisis?
Like most other problems that at first appear complex, there are only a few fundamental reasons for a service crisis. Blame has been positioned or put down to a lack of training, and one aspect of that problem in particular is the need to effectively handle customer complaints.
On suggested approach is to ‘Go the extra mile’. The concept of going the extra mile is especially relevant to handling complaints. Anyone who has ever had to deal with an irate customer knows the job can be just as difficult whether it’s done over the phone or in person. Yet there are some very good reasons to make the extra effort, to rewire the usual attitude towards complaining customers.
Interestingly, research shows us that 95% of all complaining customers will do business with a firm again if they resolve their complaint on the spot. And like “kissing and making up”, these customers feel better about you than they did before their complaint. The resulting “loyalty effect” is not just something touchy-feely either.
If a business occasionally performs below customer expectations, it can still be perceived as reputable if they have stood behind its guarantees and promises – and have handled criticism diplomatically.

We should not overlook how handling complaints better, an integral part of delivering excellent customer service this can also help to develop respect and the organisation’s reputation.
Another reason to welcome customer complaints is suggested by Rosabeth Moss Kanter who, in “The Art of Innovation” contends that complaints can be an untapped source of new and profitable ideas:
“That’s why the CEO of Procter and Gamble listens to the ‘800 number’…(where customers call in complaints)… so often. It’s from the complaints that you hear where the change is needed. It’s from the complaints where you get the new idea for a valuable new product.”
Some innovative companies go so far as to recruit complaining customers into focus groups, using the dissatisfaction to brainstorm new products and services that can put these companies more in tune with their market.
In summary, none of the suggestions in this article suggest that handling customer complaints is easy. There are, however, many benefits to those who are willing to endure the wrath of an angry customer.

  1. It’s a good defensive strategy to help reduce customer fallout and loss of market share;
  2. It’s a good offensive strategy to help increase your market share, top line sales and bottom line profits;
  3. It can serve as a valuable source of new ideas and products.

So consider the next customer complaint you get for what it really is.
Don't get trapped in the whirlpool!

Read more and similar articles from Knowledge Hemispheres wiki: – The free online Business Consultancy encylopedia.

Categories: Customer Services

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