I came across this article “15 Statistics That Should Change The Business World – But Haven’t” which identified 15 pieces of research that show how important customer service is in retaining and developing business – much more so than the quality and price of the product or service being sold.
This led me to think of personal examples where I have bought once and not gone back because the service I received wasn’t, in my view, satisfactory.
Before you ask – no; I didn’t complain at the time and I know that this is regarded as the English disease. In America complaining is the done thing and in France it is “de rigueur”; but I just didn’t want the hassle and stress. The net result is that the business didn’t know of my dissatisfaction and therefore couldn’t do anything about it.
I just didn’t want the hassle and stress associated with complaining. Now don’t get me wrong, there have been occasions when the issue or amount of money was so serious that of course I complained and looked for recompense.
So, in my world, there is a cost below which I do not want the hassle of complaining and I know I’m not alone in this. So the question becomes why do I feel that way? Is it because I’m a lily-livered softy, there’s not many people who know me who would agree with that.
It’s because complaining by and large is not made easy by most businesses, of course there are exceptions which I acknowledge here. Large organisations and M&S is still the shining light in this area, have the resources to employ specialist teams, this generally is not an option for smaller businesses.
So here’s some juicy bits from the article of which you really should take notice:-
- 1. 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain
- 2. For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers
- 3. A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience
- 4. It costs 6–7 times more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one
Here are two questions for you as a SME business owner.
Do you get stressed by complaining customers? Do your employees get stressed when handling complaints?
If the answer is yes; is this causing you to either not handle complaints effectively in the eyes of the customer or worse making the process so unpleasant that complaining customers disappear.
Acknowledging that handling customer complaints can be stressful is the first step in overcoming this hurdle and creating a system that will support your business in this area, not undermine it.
Stress has become a byword nowadays for dealing with difficult situations but it is these very situations that provide the opportunity for improvement; both of the business and also on a personal level as well.
It is now widely recognised that stress is contagious. We pick up on each other’s stress, at the subconscious level when the stress levels are minor, but very consciously when stress levels are high. We also so prepare ourselves when we know we are going to be dealing with someone who is in a high state of stress.
So put yourself in the shoes of your customer: something has gone wrong, she wants to complain but she knows that you, or your people, are going to be stressed by her call. So she prepares herself. When you take the call you perceive someone who is in a state of stress and react accordingly.
A horrible spiral of miscommunication ensues making it nearly impossible to find a solution acceptable to both sides.
So how do you get out of the spiral?
- 1. Reframe what complaints mean to you. Stop seeing them as difficult customers who don’t appreciate how hard you work to deliver the product or service. Start to see them as valuable feedback from customers who care about you enough to make the effort to let you know, so that you can rescue the relationship and continue to count on them as customers.
- 2. See complaints as research feedback that is going to enable you to improve your service and get ahead of your competition.
- 3. Train yourself and your employees to understand that the complaining customer is probably feeling stressed themselves and you need to be empathetic to that.
- 4. There will be times when the customer is not right in their complaint. Develop approaches to handle that. Be prepared, so that when it happens you do not react inappropriately. (I’m reminded of the restaurateur who, when told that the pigeon in the game pie was tough to the point of being inedible, grabbed a knife and fork, cut a piece and proceeded to eat it in front of the customer to disprove him). The customer may not be right BUT they are always the customer – unless you don’t want them to be.
There are many great guides available giving great tips and techniques to improving your customers’ experience. Making complaining a pleasant and stress free experience will transform your customers’ experience and will elevate you and your business, inestimably in their eyes.
By the way, if you’re worried that more customers will start to complain, then you should rejoice on two levels.
- 1. Remember the statistic: For every customer complaint there are 26 other unhappy customers. Wouldn’t you rather know?
- 2. It puts you in the driving seat. If a customer is really unreasonable YOU can make the decision as to whether you want to retain them or not.