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Cranky customers and how to handle them

By CCIWA Editor 

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”  – Bill Gates. 

Everyone makes mistakes. And every so often your company will fail to meet a customer’s expectations. Look at these complaints as opportunities rather than headaches and here’s why. 

You will not necessarily lose a customer unless you handle their complaint badly. Handle it well and they will actually become a loyal customer and advocate for your business. 

A study into customer complaints conducted by the US Office of Consumer Affairs found that if a complaint is resolved in a customer’s favour, 70 per cent of complainants will remain loyal to the business.  

That figure jumps to an impressive 96 per cent when customers feel their complaint has been acted upon quickly. What’s more, these customers were more likely to then recommend the business than those who had never experienced a problem. 

So, customer complaints are actually valuable opportunities to build brand loyalty and generate valuable word of mouth. 

That’s why you need to make it simple for customers to contact you with problems.  

And frontline staff need to be trained to handle these important first-contact calls calmly, respectfully and consistently. 

Instituting a policy on how to handle customer complaints is an essential part of business strategy, not least of all because it is much more cost-effective to retain customers than expend resources attracting new ones.  

Consumer advocacy group Choice says customers increasingly expect contact with them to be easy and not giving them a choice will also make them unhappy.   

When you listen to customers, focus on what they are saying and let them tell you what’s wrong, in many cases, it’s something that can be solved. 

Often when a complaint is handled badly, it is this experience of feeling “fobbed off”, rather than the original problem, which then becomes the issue.  

When complaints are not handle well, there is the added risk they will vent through friends, family and social media. 

The last thing you want is a disgruntled customer going rogue online.  

Research indicates we are more likely to share bad experiences than good ones. A happy customer will tell three or four friends. An unhappy customer will tell between nine and 15.  

The most important prongs of a good customer complaint process are: 

  • customers should be able to reach you easily 
  • you need to listen 
  • acknowledge there has been a problem (it is rarely good business to argue the point) 
  • discuss acceptable resolutions 
  • always respond in a timely manner. 
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”  – Bill Gates. 

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