Customer Complaints Are Good

Customers Who Complain Are Customers Who Care

As sure as there are customers for your product, you can be guaranteed that there will be complaints about your products or services.

Why?

Is it impossible for any organization to deliver 100% customer satisfaction and 100% fault-free products and services all the time? In a simple word: yes.

I have yet to come across an organization that does not make the occasional mistake, or the employee who does not commit the odd accidental error or who simply is in a grumpy mood that is reflected onto your customers.

So face it ─ complaints will happen.

And this is good. For complaints are good for you.

One of the worst things customers can do when faced with unsatisfactory service or a poor quality product is to not tell you and leave for the competition. After all, if you do not hear of the problems that cause customers to take their business elsewhere, how can you fix them?

Customer complaints are good for these:

  • Highlight areas that need improvement.
  • Identify procedures that cause customer pain.
  • Reveal information that is lacking, or erroneous, in your communications.
  • Identify staff who need more training or closer supervision.
  • Provide a check on consistency levels.
  • Surface policies that may be outdated.
  • Trigger positive change (if you take the initiative to act on the complaints).
  • Raise staff morale (through positive change).
  • Provide a method of competitive intelligence.
  • Provide bench marking from other industries.
  • Identify customers who care.

That last point is a critical one to ponder. Customers who complain are customers who care!

Sure, customers who complain often want some form of restitution for the inconveniences suffered. But most just want the organization to live up to the promises made, which ought to be the key objective of the selling organization anyway.

So while they care about themselves and having their own satisfaction levels fulfilled, they also care enough about future engagements with the organization to want to help the organization live up to future commitments.

Otherwise, they would simply just walk away and take their business elsewhere (after demanding a refund of whatever money has already been spent on the unsatisfactory product or service).

Whether they are loyal customers, upset customers, wronged customers, disappointed customers, angry customers, right customers, or even wrong customers ─ customers who complain do care. (Okay, maybe not all, but certainly most.)

If your staff attitudes can be shifted so that they collectively and individually view complainers as customers who care, then your organization is in a much better position to learn from such complaints and to implement restorative steps that result in retrieval of departing and departed customers.

Unfortunately, too many organizations treat customer complaints as “sore points” that need to be counted, rectified, and forgotten as soon as the service staff moves on to the next complaining customer. This is why too much of “customer service” these days is reactionary and process driven, with managers and service staff monitored and measured in terms of efficiencies, quickness of response, and the number of complaints “handled” per shift, day, week, or month.

When complaints are handled and tracked this way, true organizational learning and the opportunity to turn complaints into new levels of customer satisfaction through positive change are usually lost. Forever. Or at least until an enlightened new manager takes over the so-called customer service unit.

Lastly, it is important to remember that all complainers have one of two things in common ─ they are all customers or prospects.

Service recovery starts with the way you handle complaints and complainers, a topic that we will discuss in the next Monday Morning Marketing Memo.

Until then, remember that complaints are good. And that, for the most part, people who complain are customers who truly care about your future. Or at least your future with them as your customers.

 

KEY POINT: customers who complain are customers who care.

TAKING ACTION: how are customer complaints handled in your organization? Are they processed and handled as quickly and efficiently as possible, and then forgotten? What steps are needed to turn the efficient handling of customer complaints into learning opportunities for your organization?

How is customer service monitored and measured in your organization? What does your customer service “scorecard” look like? Does it include measurements for how lessons from the frontline are circulated to other staff, used in training courses, and incorporated into new employee orientation programs?

How can lessons from the frontline be turned into learning stories to the benefit of the entire organization and its customers?

 

This article is excerpted from our book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

 

Think Customers

Customers are people. Treat them as customers and people.

How do you call or refer to the people who buy your goods and services? What descriptive names do you use? What terminology do you use to discuss them?

Your pronoun of choice may include passengers, guests, participants, clients, patients, and a whole host of other words.

However, there is only word that should be used ─ customers.

Here is how the choice of descriptive can alter the way you and your colleagues think about your customers:

Passengers sit in airplane seats eating boring meals and attempting to be entertained by movies on small screens.

Customers are flyers with individual needs, wants, and desires whose travel experiences begin from the time the journey is planned to the time they collect their luggage at their final destination.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Cargo shippers hand over freight that is then stored and transported in the belly of a plane or the hold of a ship.

Customers are the people shipping or receiving the precious (to them) cargo being carried and transported.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Hotel guests check in, check out, occasionally dine in house or in room, and might return some day.

Customers are individuals away from home looking for comfort, rest, familiarity, recognition, and a reason to return some day.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Clients sit in offices and have meetings in conference rooms.

Customers are the people who react to your ideas and appreciate the value you add.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Patients sit patiently in waiting rooms as they are moved from test to test or room to room.

Customers are people scared about their medical conditions and worried for their futures.

Δ Δ Δ Δ Δ

Participants at a conference have paid for their admission and eagerly wait to hear nuggets of brilliance from the speakers.

Customers are individuals with important personal concerns seeking new insights and experiences to help them achieve personal and professional goals.

 

Customers are PEOPLE — treat them humanely and with respect, as they most certainly deserve.

Customers are not “the man in seat 17F,” or “the woman in room 839,” or “the couple at table 14.” And most assuredly, to them, they are also not “seat 17F,” or “room 839”, or “table 14.” Yet, how many times a day do your staff refer to your customers this way (and hence THINK about them this way)?

Customers are “the customer in seat 17F,” and “the customer in room 839,’ and “the customers at table 14” and they deserve to be spoken about and thought about in this way by your staff and colleagues.

Think of your customers as CUSTOMERS. As PEOPLE.

And treat them as CUSTOMERS and PEOPLE.

Think of them, and treat them, as CUSTOMERS and PEOPLE with real and individual needs, wants, and desires. Not as account numbers, participants, account holders, clients, passengers, guests, or patients.

Do this and you will have more customers.

Do this and you will have happier customers.

Do this and you will have repeat customers.

Do this, and your happy and repeat customers will help to ensure a better and more stable future for your organization.

It all starts with how you think about, call, and refer to the people who buy your goods and services.

KEY POINT:  the choice of descriptive can alter the way you and your colleagues think about your customers.

TAKING ACTION:  for the next week, record every descriptive used internally to describe the people who buy your goods and services. In what context are these words used? How do these words reflect the TRUE feelings of your staff towards your customers? How would their thinking change if the word “customer” had been inserted every time another descriptive was used?

For the next week, review every piece of internal and external communication generated. How often are the people who buy your goods and services described as customers? How often are they described as something else? How do these other words reflect the TRUE feelings of the writers and the readers towards your customers? How would their thinking change if the word “customer” had been used every time another descriptive was used?

Go out to your customer points of interaction. What words are your staff and colleagues using IN FRONT OF CUSTOMERS to describe them? Are your customers being called “room 1027” in front of the customer who is in that room? Are your staff saying “the guy on flight 64 wants to move his seat” in front of the customer making this request?

Start an internal movement now to eliminate ALL descriptive names and words used by your organization other than the word CUSTOMER to refer to the people who buy or use your goods and services.

This article is excerpted from my book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available at Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats.

Customer Service Creed

When the customer wins, you also win

The importance of focusing on customer needs, wants, and desires is a key theme in every seminar and keynote speech I give.

I have long advocated that too many businesses are being run in the pursuit of short-term shareholder value (i.e. share price) and not in the pursuit of long-term shareholder value through solving customer problems profitably and from developing long-term customer loyalty.

Now that a significant portion of the global economy is undergoing a slow (or negative) growth phase, the solitary pursuit by senior executives in trying to constantly push the share price higher and higher is coming home to scorch them.

The best way to create long-term shareholder value is to create and keep good customers.

In order to develop strong customer retention strategies, you need to have an organization-wide customer service creed in place.

Here’s a generic Customer Service Creed that you might be able to adapt for your own purposes:

Every employee has customers, either internal or external (or both). Everyone in the organization must walk the talk during every customer point of interaction.

Treat all employees as special, just as you would treat all customers as special. How you treat your staff is mirrored in the way they treat your customers.

Empower employees who are engaged in regular contact with external customers to make decisions. Establish relaxed levels of authority and alternate chain of commands. Not all decisions should, or need to, come to managers. Trust your staff, having given them appropriate guidelines to work within.

Customer service does not end when the customer has paid for the product and taken it home. Customer service must continue after the sale, just as it must come before the sale.

Allow the customer to talk. Look at them. Be interested in them. Summarize what they are saying. Treat each customer as a unique individual with individual needs, wants, and desires and never as someone who is making the same request you have heard before.

To the customer, each individual they interact with is the organization. Eliminate the “we/they” thinking. Success comes when you think of the word “us” when dealing with customers.

It is much easier to create a positive impression than to erase or correct a negative one.

Let the customer win. Then you both win.

Your competition is anyone the customer compares you with.

Reward, recognize, and celebrate your customer service successes. This creates momentum for future success stories.

To win today’s marketing battles, you might want to consider creating and publicizing, both internally and externally, your own Customer Service Creed.

And remember, when the customer wins, you also win!

 

KEY POINT #1:  in order to develop strong customer retention strategies, you need to have an organization-wide customer service creed in place.

KEY POINT #2: when the customer wins, you also win!

TAKING ACTION:  do you treat employees as special? Is how your organization treats its own staff reflected in the ways your staff treat customers?

What impressions of your organization do your customers take away with them after each and EVERY interaction with your organization?

How can you eliminate the “we/they” thinking between your staff and your customers?

This article is partially excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, available in paperback and Kindle formats at Amazon.

7 Cs of Customer Retention

Seven Ways to Keep Good Customers

Many companies around the world are recognized by consumers for worldwide excellent service. Companies such as McDonald’s, Singapore Airlines, Federal Express, L.L. Bean, and Citibank are successful because they know exactly what their customers expect and then they satisfy these customer expectations (most of the time).

At McDonald’s, every employee ─ in every country around the world ─ knows the company stands for quality, service, cleanliness, and value. Every McDonald’s employee also knows exactly what each of these elements means in terms of HOW to do business with McDonald’s customers.

At Citibank, the service quality goal is to set and consistently meet service performance standards that satisfy the customer and profit the bank. In other words, at Citibank the customer is the final judge of service and the bank invests an inordinate amount of money each year in tracking its customer satisfaction levels.

While all customers are unique, and use different values to make purchasing decisions, there are seven common customer expectations for customer service that have basically become the MINIMUM LEVEL that today’s customers DEMAND be met by all the organizations from which they buy. Because these are the minimum requirements, they are also the ones that must be met if you are to achieve any significant level of customer retention.

The 7 Cs of Customer Retention are:

Caring Attitude ─ employees that are caring, friendly, helpful, care/show empathy, value me as a customer, apologizes for company errors.

Customized Practices ─ flexibility in applying most, if not all, company policies, simple documentation, forms that are easy to understand and use, suspension of disputed charges, willingness to extend additional services, ability of the organization at all key contact points to know and understand the customer’s relationship with us.

Competent CCPs ─ having customer contact personnel who communicate well and accurately, take action, meet commitments, keep customers constantly informed of a situation’s status, and who are fully aware of all the organization’s products, services, procedures, and policies.

Call/Visit Once ─ the customer’s initial contact person in your organization handles the problem, or gets it resolved. The CCP or contact person makes necessary decisions and the customer only needs to explain the problem once (even if moved to another service provider). All contacts know the customer’s account status, as well as the nature of the problem under resolution.

Convenient Access ─ your operating hours of stores, branches, outlets, offices, and call centers are structured with the needs of customers in mind. Your access numbers are easy to get through, are answered promptly, and the length of time on hold and the number of transfers internally before the problem is resolved are kept to a minimum. Your website is easy to understand, navigate, use and the ordering process is simple and caters for international orders (if you are willing to ship goods and products outside your home country).

Compressed Cycle Times ─ customers receive an immediate response to enquiries, products and services meet customers’ timing, adjustments or changes (such as address changes) are made before the next billing or statement cycle, and your organization provides consistently quick turnaround (especially for problem solving).

Committed Follow Through ─ the CCP and/or customer’s contact person commits to what/when/how, follows-up to confirm action, checks on satisfaction level, and your organization takes corrective action to prevent reoccurrence of an error or problem.

These 7 Cs are the minimum requirements your customers have. And if you do not deliver well against these criteria, then you cannot expect to have high levels of customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, or customer retention.

Last week we gave you a checklist of items that you can use in monitoring your business unit’s service delivery on these seven customer expectations. As several other successful, customer-focused organizations have done, please put this checklist to good use and you will be well on your way to achieving high levels of customer retention, or what I like to call the art of keeping good customers.™

 

KEY POINT: there are seven common customer expectations for customer service that have basically become the MINIMUM LEVEL that today’s customers DEMAND be met by the organizations from which they buy from.

TAKING ACTION: do all your customer contact personnel have caring, friendly attitudes? Do they exhibit empathy towards customers at all times? How could this be improved?

How flexible are your company policies? Could they be made more flexible? Would greater flexibility be appreciated by your customers?

How simple and easy-to-use is your documentation? How can this be made more simple or easier to use?

When was the last time you asked your customers these same questions?

This article is excerpted from the book The Best of the Monday Morning Marketing Memo, which is available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.

Marketing Words of Wisdom on Customer Retention

Keeping Good Customers

The world in which marketing takes place has changed, and continues to change at a rapid pace.

Customers, customer needs, and the motivations for making purchasing decisions are also changing. Often at an equally rapid pace.

Plus, the natural loyalty of customers is becoming a thing of the past, not just because customers have become more fickle but also because a large majority of organizations do not exhibit tendencies that deserve customer loyalty.

Here are three pieces of advice from our new book Marketing Words of Wisdom that I regularly give to clients on how to build customer loyalty and keep good customers:

Rational marketing ignores half a customer’s brain.

Customers buy for both rational and emotional reasons. Persuade by reason, motivate through emotion.

This is the Yin and Yang of marketing.

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The secret to Customer Retention Marketing is TLC (think like customers).

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A person or business is not your customer until the second time they buy. The first time they purchase they are merely a trial user.

 These are three steps that any business — particularly smaller businesses and start-ups — can put to immediate use to build a loyal customer base and convert trial users into good customers.

For more of my thoughts on how to use marketing as a business driver, Marketing Words of Wisdom is available at Amazon in both paperback ($5.88) and Kindle ($2.99) formats

Note: Marketing Words of Wisdom will be specially priced at just $0.99 in Kindle on July 28 – August 1.

Marketing Words of Wisdom

Marketing is not rocket science.

In fact, marketing is more art than science, though there are some scientific and measurable aspects to marketing. But what to measure?

Here are three quotations from our new book Marketing Words of Wisdom containing advice I regularly give to clients on what to measure and how to differentiation advertising from branding:

 

There is a misplaced focus on marketing metrics today.

The number one thing to measure is your customers’ propensity to repeat their business with you.

Secondly, measure how likely are they to bring to you new customers or to refer potential customers, colleagues, and friends to you.

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A competitive advantage is what you do different from and/or better than your competition.

It is the service, product, brand identification, guarantee, or anything else that motivates the customer to give you his or her money because price is no longer the main issue or the deciding point of differentiation.

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An advertising campaign should be timely. A branding campaign should be timeless.

 

Now I realize that this is not how many of the big agency firms approach these topics. But my focus is more on helping non-marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs get a firmer grasp on how to build their businesses and retain good customers.

For more of my thoughts, Marketing Words of Wisdom is available at Amazon for just $5.88 in paperback and $2.99 in Kindle.

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