How you deal with a customer complaint can turn an angry customer into an asset.
Most businesses hear from only 4 per cent of their dissatisfied customers. The other 96 per cent don’t say anything.1 That 96 per cent who feel aggrieved will each tell up to 20 people about their experience2… a negative word-of-mouth that can spiral out of your control. To stem the tide of complaints, you can promote your business to customers to try and dilute the noise, but that won’t address unresolved customer issues.
What of those people who speak up… that 4 per cent of dissatisfied customers who take the time to tell you what grieves them. People who complain react out of the hurt they feel about the service they’ve received or product they’ve bought. When they speak with you, they’re usually fuelled with emotion. This is simply an outward working of an inner issue or hurt that has been gnawing away at them. Very few customers, when they feel wronged, are going to speak with you in a calm and metered voice.
Out of that hurt, they’re trying to find a resolution, ultimately for themselves, but they care enough about your business to say something. It’s the way you respond and the length of time you take to resolve their complaint that determines whether that customer will do business with you again – this is crucial.
Most businesses hear from only 4 per cent of their dissatisfied customers
If you resolve their issue to their satisfaction immediately, 95 per cent of those customers will do business with you again.3 Resolving the issue and keeping your customer in the short term can turn a negative experience into a positive outcome, and will ultimately transform that customer into a loyal advocate for your business.
How valuable is that dissatisfied customer to you? Once the issue is resolved to their satisfaction, research shows this customer will tell between four to six people about their experience.3 This handful of complaining customers are now no longer ‘just’ customers, they have become your greatest advocates. And, more than that, they have given you information about your business that you can use to improve it.
The bottom line is, we have no choice but to resolve a customer’s issue, immediately. If we don’t, they are four times more likely to take their business to the competitor down the road if the problem is ‘service’ related rather than price or product related.4 Giving the customer what they want isn’t necessarily going to resolve the issue. It’s about giving them their voice, then listening and trying to understand their problem.
You can’t control what isn’t in your hands. What you can control is how you listen and how real you are with the customer in front of you. Affect the things you can affect. Timeliness of communication, empathy and honesty are the keys to improving the customer experience.
Do this and your dissatisfied customer will become one of your greatest advocates and assets. When you boil it down, ultimately, a dissatisfied customer just wants to be heard.
1. Understanding Customers. Ruby Newell-Legner.
2. Lee Resource International.
3. White House Office of Consumer Affairs, Washington, DC
4. Bain & Company, Boston, Massachusetts