Ok – a strange title for an article however an important statistic to remember. Especially if you have the desire to become the best at what you do and shine above your competition.
That is the percentage of unhappy clients that will actually take the time to let you know they are unhappy.
That means the remaining 95.7% of unhappy clients will potentially talk with their feet.
They will leave your business, possibly never to return without ever presenting the opportunity for you to put it right.
And you can guarantee that they are spreading the word. And don’t people love stories that bring others into disrepute!
As a communication expert it astounds me how poorly people in business respond to a complaint.
The most common response is to become defensive creating tension between the complainant and themselves. This potentially leads to a situation where the unhappy client feels worse for having bought the problem to your attention and your reputation is in tatters.
So – how does one respond appropriately to complaining customers?
1) To begin with – change your belief around them.
These people are not complaining customers – they are people with gems of information that could quite literally change your business practices for the better. Even the customer that never seems happy does have some merit hidden in their message. Put your personal feelings aside and find the hidden gem. So start with a thank you for bringing this to your attention. Remember – this is an opportunity to review something that may not be working. How do you think great businesses become great businesses – not by digging their toes in and believing they have everything right all of the time?
2) LISTEN then acknowledge.
Give them your undivided attention even if it feels like you are being personally attacked.
So often situations are inflamed because people do not feel heard. Just be silent and let them blow off steam if that is what they need to do.
Then paraphrase their complaint to them – “so from what I understand you are feeling frustrated with our lack of response to your invoicing issue”. Remember in this acknowledgement to recognize the feelings they have so clearly expressed. Keep your voice low and calm – yes even if you feel like – well you know what I mean.
3) Apologize for the inconvenience that may have been caused to them.
I do not believe in apologizing for things when we genuinely believe we have not done anything wrong. However an apology blended in with an acknowledgement of feelings is very powerful “I am very sorry you feel that way” or “I want to apologize for the frustration this has caused you” or “I am so sorry that this has been your experience – this is not how our company wants to work”. You are not admitting to anything here – once again it is about valuing the 4.3% of people that have taken time out to bring things to your attention. It is about acknowledging their feelings.
4) Ask them what would make it right.
Yes I do mean this. They may come up with something that you think is impossible and you are just not prepared to do however it is a starting place. With negotiation middle ground can be reached. This also gives the client a feeling of being valued, that you are keen to put things right and to change their experience with your business. I must remind you though to consider the cost of having someone leaving your business who has switched from anti to a raving fan. That is powerful and an extremely good marketing tool. Weigh up the cost of digging your toes in. (also remember step two – there is no point in asking how to put things right if you are not prepared to listen to their suggestion).
5) Follow up.
Take the whole process a step further with a card or something similar sent to the client thanking them for giving you the opportunity to put things right. Make sure it is personalized to them and share what you have changed in your processes because of the information they passed on to you. They will feel pretty chuffed to think that your business is getting better because of something they shared with you.
None of us enjoy being complained to. However it is part of the improvement process and an opportunity to become great.
Remind yourself of the 4.3% of people that will give you this opportunity and I think you will receive things a little differently.
It has been said many times that customer service in New Zealand is pretty substandard and sadly I see evidence of this time and time again.
Join me on my mission to create customer service second to none through effective communication and developing your people.