October 30, 2012

Turning Anger Into Advocacy

customer complaints small businessCustomer complaints are, sadly, the name of the game when you run your own business and it can be painful to hear something negative when you are the person running the show.  Believe it or not, those customer complaints are golden opportunities and you have the power to turn those folks into some of your biggest brand advocates.

  • If you don’t know it’s broke how can you fix it?  If something isn’t working in your system – maybe your website buying process isn’t seamless, maybe your cookies have too much salt, maybe your brand colors are so garish they’re causing people migraines….whatever the complaint may be, it’s far better you hear about it then never know at all.  For every one person out there who’s complaining, there’s usually ten or more who are thinking the same thing.  This doesn’t mean you have you change your business every time someone complains – because someone will always complain, trust me! – but it gives you an opportunity to see a piece of your business with fresh eyes and determine whether this really is a problem that needs fixing.
  • Listening and responding go a long way in this world of email black holes.   The other day I received the nastiest customer complaint email I’ve ever seen for a company I contract it.  Ironically, the customer was mistaken and what he was accusing the company of doing was actually not true.  Within an hour I had drafted a response that outlined his concerns and presented reasons for why things were the way they were.  This was a case where the business strategy was not going to change but at the very least I could listen to and respond to his concerns.  Ten minutes after I sent that email I received a response thanking me for taking the time to answer him.
  • Oftentimes people dash off a vicious, heat-of-the-moment email thinking that no one will actually read it.  Taking the time to get back to someone shows that you are committed to customer service and that you are truly concerned about what your customers think.  In this day and age that can be pretty rare and sets you apart.    No matter how you hear about the complaint or what you ultimately decide to do about it, oftentimes the quickest way to de-escalate a situation is to let customers and critics know that you’re listening.
  • What are folks saying about you behind-your-back?  It’s one thing to hear complaints when they’re directed right at you but these days, with everyone jumping on social media at the drop of a hat, it is crucial that you pay attention to what people are saying about you online.  It can be beneficial to monitor social media sites using tools like Google Alerts and Twitter Search to keep track of whether your company is coming up in online conversations.  If it does, in some cases you may want to sit by and see what happens and in others you may need to jump in and placate an angry customer.

Not being afraid to enter the fray, listen to customers through whichever channels they’re using to speak up, and apologize and make right when necessary will go a long way in making your loudest complainers into your biggest advocates.

Have you ever received such stellar customer service that changed your mind about a brand?

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