(As published in the Sunday Star Times, November 9)
A friend of mine was telling me about his accountant the other day. He’s been with the firm for years and really rates them, but the past two years, with a new accountant on board, he’s been less than pleased. There had been a series of frustrations on his latest tax return – small mistakes were made and extrapolated throughout and he was exasperated with the amount of to-and-fro with phone calls and emails. He emailed the company owner, just to let him know what his experience had been this time round. He emailed back that very day saying he was sorry about the issues and as a result he’d wipe his accounting fee for the year.
My friend was gobsmacked.
He’d written to let him know that his experience with his firm was sliding and that he’d hoped he wouldn’t charge her for the extra time those mistakes took to rectify. But to have his whole fee wiped? He was blown away. And you know what? He reckons he’ll probably stay with this company for the rest of his working life, because of how the owner took it on the chin and generously rectified the situation (so long as the service he experienced this year doesn’t happen again, of course). His response to my friend’s concerns made her feel valued – like he was a customer that mattered, with concerns that counted. That’s exactly how any complaining customer should feel – valued and validated.
What does your company do when a customer complains? Roll your eyes and groan about them behind their back? Label them a whiner or troublemaker? Sure, no one likes being told off or being told their service or product wasn’t up to its normal standard, but you should be using their complaint as an opportunity. Is it a long-time customer? What they think really matters. They probably really like your product or service and are truly dismayed to see it going downhill from what they were used to. Loyal customers are the ones who care enough about you to tell you when you need to work on something – a little bit like your mum, really. Take on board what they say – if one person has said it, ten others are probably thinking it.
Is your disappointed customer someone who has tried you out for the first time? They’re giving you a golden opportunity to make an unforgettable second impression – don’t muck it up.
So how should you cope with a complaint? First off, don’t make them feel embarrassed for complaining. Tell them you appreciate them sharing their concerns, take it on the chin and apologise. Always say sorry. And then act on it – don’t make them have to chase you for a response.
Blow them away to take the wind out of their sales. It’ll go a long way to securing a customer for life. Go over and beyond to impress them. They say their meal took far too long? Apologise and tell them their meal is on the house. They’ve had to ring five times to get their new TV fixed? Apologise, swap it out for a new one and take them a box of chocolates, too. They’re furious at how long it takes to get through to you on the phone? Apologise and give them your personal number. Make them feel valued and validated.
If you wince at the thought of the cost of those actions, consider the cost of bad word of mouth – what will it do to your business having a detractor out there telling everyone how terrible you are? And consider the cost of getting new customers – your marketing costs, staff time spent on working to get new clients, conversion costs… And then figure out what a lifetime customer is worth to your business – add up the number of transactions of your average customer and what they spend on average at each sale. Include the possible value they bring you in referrals. Suddenly your wow experience is looking very cheap in comparison…
So the next time someone complains, blow them away with your response. Take it on the chin, say you’re sorry and then make it better in an incredible way. And then learn from it.
If you struggle with customer complaints – and how to handle them – talk to Zac for some business advice, business coaching and ways to wow your detractors. www.businesschanging.com or 021 775 660.
Leave a Reply