Complaints can be frustrating and discouraging for anyone. Every business – from large corporations down to small businesses will face a customer complaint pretty regularly. How you react to these complaints can dictate the future of your brand. That sounds pretty extreme, but it’s true!
Think about it: how often have you used a complaint to make a change within your business practice that’s actually resulted in better operation or happier customers? The saying “the customer is always right” does sometimes have merit. Often, customers see our businesses in a different light than we or our close friends and family do because we’re a bit biased. Take advantage of that unbiased opinion and turn it into something positive.
Check out all the ways a customer complaint can benefit your business:
It’s Not Just About That One
Just because you only see one complaint about something doesn’t mean that there’s not a problem with your business, staff, or product. Often, when people are unhappy with a brand for one reason or another, they simply don’t return. Don’t risk losing a large client base because you didn’t think a complaint was worth your attention. It’s estimated that only 1 in 26 unsatisfied customers will complain – that means that 25 will walk away unhappy without complaining because they don’t feel it’s worth their time. That’s a lot of lost business!
“Assume the person submitting the complaint is supported by a room full of others who are in agreement, but silent,” says Phillip Akhzar, CEO of Arka. “Accommodating a complaint or changing something in your brand to address the issue could be a simple fix, but by ignoring it because ‘it was only one complaint’ could mean you’re actually losing dozens of silent customers who will just take their business elsewhere.”
They Want to Like You
While there may be some people out there that simply complain about things as a way to pass time, most complaints are going to come from genuine consumers who really want to be happy with your product. They probably purchased the product with excitement only to be let down by something along the way.
“You have to look at each buyer as someone you’re building a relationship with,” says Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB. “If they’ve purchased from you, then that means you’ve already accomplished the most difficult part – convincing them to buy. Now that you’ve entered a relationship with that consumer, you have to maintain it. Make sure they’re happy with their products and keep in touch. If a complaint comes in, it should be treated as part of that relationship. If it’s ignored, that relationship is going to fizzle out. If it’s addressed quickly, you’ll strengthen it.”
A Complaint Can Be Turned Into A Compliment
If you handle complaints well, you can actually strengthen your brand’s image. That might sound backwards but let’s break it down: if a customer leaves a negative review or complaint and you address it well, they may go back and update what they’d said. This means that not only are they going to give a positive comment, but they’re going to tell others that even if there’s a negative experience, your brand is one that cares enough about your customers to make it right.
“I don’t know about you, but I almost feel more secure when purchasing a product from a brand when I see a comment about how they handled someone else’s issues,” says Ray Leon, CEO of Pet Insurance Review. “No brand is perfect – we’re going to make mistakes. But if you see a brand that has had enough of an impact on people to cause them to leave a review on the positive service they received after a negative experience and still give that brand a good rating, I feel like that’s a brand I can purchase from without fear of problematic customer service.”
Give Them Something to Talk About
Have you ever thought about your complaints being the best access point for word of mouth? Again – like the last section – this seems backwards. However, if you think about it, aren’t you more likely to talk about a great recovery from a bad experience than an average purchase? People who walk away with the expected product and no additional interaction with customer service are less likely to have much to say about your brand. BUT the people who call or email to let you know of a problem are more likely to say something. Knock it out of the park with customer service and leave them so excited about the result of their complaint that they can’t help but tell everyone about it.
“We live in a world where so many of our purchases are made without personal contact,” says Maria Shriver, Co-founder of MOSH. “This is true for businesses that are in person and online, but especially online. Make sure your customer service is up to par. The people that are willing to complain are also typically the people that will be willing to praise. Go above and beyond their expectations – assume this is their first impression of your brand’s approach to talking with your customers and do everything you reasonably can to leave them happy. A happy customer is likely to spread word-of-mouth which is still the most powerful advertising tool out there.”
They’re Doing the Work for You
One of the most costly and difficult things to do in a business plan is making contact with people and convincing them to invest in what your brand has to offer. When a complaint comes in, you have a golden opportunity – the chance to market your brand to someone who has already decided they want your product or service. While they may be unhappy, working to satisfy them now could lead to having a long-term customer.
“A customer who complains is actually initiating contact with your brand,” says Brett Estep, COO of Insured Nomads. “While you don’t want to push other purchases while this person is already unhappy about something, you still want to treat them as a potential future customer and ambassador. Providing service that improves their view of your brand and leaves them feeling valued and cared for increases the chance that they’ll purchase again in the future.”
Keeps Your Customer Service Team Sharp
Customer service teams do a lot more than simply answer phone calls and emails from unhappy shoppers. As you’ve noticed in this article, there’s actually a lot that goes on in the complaint process. Make sure your customer service team is well trained and learning from each complaint that comes in. Let them know they’re an important and appreciated member of the team.
“Your customer service team has one of the more unpredictable jobs,” says David Culpepper, Clinical Director of LifeMD. “They deal with different problems each and every day and have to know how to think on the fly. When a customer complaint comes in that’s new or more challenging than normal, they’re forced to problem solve and come up with solutions that can help for that situation and any similar problems that may arise in the future.
While customer complaints can be hard to hear and extra work to accommodate, they can definitely be worth it in the end. You have to remember the power that is behind that one complaint. Assuming one person complaining about a problem means that dozens of others have left your brand because of that same issue gives it the weight it deserves.
Make sure your customers are given the best possible customer service because a complaint can turn into a compliment and word-of-mouth which is a very powerful advertising tool. Take advantage of the fact that this consumer has already decided they like your brand and want your product and make it an experience that makes them want to return.
Responding to customer complaints isn’t always fun, but it’s a great way to benefit your business.