Sunday, January 31, 2010

Do you search for complaints? If not, you should!

Nobody likes complainers, right? Well, when it comes to your business, you must learn to cultivate them. Studies indicate that 96% of unhappy customers don’t report a problem. Instead, they prefer to tell up to 14 of their friends and family about their negative experience. That same unhappy customer is also only 20% as likely to repurchase from your company.

Fortunately, there is good news. If you’re able to properly resolve an issue/complaint for an unhappy customer, you can actually strengthen the relationship. This will translate into greater customer satisfaction, deeper product loyalty, and re-purchases rates upwards of 75%.

So what’s the secret? It’s simple; you must become an expert at SEARCHING for complaints. Think about it… if only 1 in 10 unhappy customers proactively lets us know, then we must go find the other 9 dissatisfied ones. For a lot of us, this can feel awkward or even go against our human nature. But if we intend to grow as people and organizations, we just need to get over it.

To start, begin thinking of creative ways to solicit and gather customer feedback. Here are some of the most popular methods:

Satisfaction surveys
Comment cards
Toll-free hotline
Online forums
Chat rooms
Focus groups
Social networking sites
Outbound calling
Field sales inquiries

Be sure to use these channels proactively to get at the customers who don’t make the initial effort to contact us. And always make it easy for the customer; anything that requires more than a couple minutes of their time is probably an intrusion.

Also try to avoid the black-hole syndrome. We must carefully plan how data will be analyzed, stored, and leveraged. From a systems perspective, all customer feedback (ideas, complaints, praise) should be integrated and stored in a central repository where it can be instantly accessed and analyzed.

Even more critical, is your method for responding to and resolving customer issues. Few things are more important, so establish a clear process for first-response, escalation, and resolution. And wherever possible, give authority to your front-line people to solve customer problems.

So what are you waiting for? Go search for some complaints today!

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