Marketing: The Value of Customer Complaints

Embracing negative comments makes you stronger

No one likes to hear complaints. You invest sweat and spirit into your company, content and products. A bad review feels like a blow right to the gut.

But rather than a punch, perhaps it is better to view a complaint as valuable training, coaching, business toughening. Customer complaints are some of the most valuable growth data you could hope for… it is free, candid, focused feedback by clients who have engaged with your company. And studies consistently show that embracing complaints with good systems and follow-up can be an effective growth strategy:

  • Dissatisfied customers are taking the time and effort to voice their opinion and uncover problems. “A typical business only hears from 4% of its dissatisfied customers—the other 96% leave, 91% for good” – (Jim Barnes, “Secrets of CRM”)
  • Complaints have greater buzz. Studies show that bad experiences are communicated to twice as many people as good experiences. Add in Social Media networks and this data grows exponentially!
  • Resolved complaints build greater loyalty. Customer satisfaction studies consistently show that customers who complain and are satisfied are more loyal than those who never complain at all.
  • Listening is your best tool in complaint resolution. Most customers complain, leave and then complain to others because they feel they were not listened to. You are not likely to be able to “fix” all customer problems. But listening and giving an honest, reasonable response is usually enough to retain a positive relationship.

Your Next Best Three Steps?:

  1. Create an Open Channel (or several) for Customer Complaints.Make it easy for clients to give you feedback at many different “touchpoints” or places where they are in contact with your company or product/service.  Studies show that 50% of consumers (75% B-to-B clients) will complain to a front line person or website but less than 5% will escalate to management.
  2. Build a Response System. Track client questions and complaints and your responses. This will allow you to build a set of common responses and to see if problems are isolated or pervasive. A company customer relationship system (even as simple as shared Google docs) allows you to present a coordinated, consistent and professional response.
  3. Use the System as Key Data for Future Growth Projects. When looking at planning for new products/services, new partners or new employees, your response system is the first data you should reference. And make sure you thank those who originally “complained” for their help.
Jeanne Rossomme
<p> Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.<br /> <a href="" style="line-height: 1.385em;" target="_blank"></a><span style="line-height: 1.385em;"> | </span><a href="" style="line-height: 1.385em;" target="_blank">@roadmapmarketin</a><span style="line-height: 1.385em;"> | </span><a href="/author/jeanne-rossomme/all-posts" style="line-height: 1.385em;" target="_blank">More from Jeanne</a></p>


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People who are outright

People who are outright negative give you the best type of information, assuming you can look at them or their comments dispassionately. It provides an unfiltered view of things. Not that they are always right but their point of view could be valuable. The most successful women leaders, CEOs, owners tend to listen to all kinds of feedback more effectively as an important reality check.

Communicating openly with my

Communicating openly with my customers is a good way to maintain damage control. For instance, if there's a known or anticipated problem within the company (delayed shipments, etc.) I use social media to get the word out. It shows people that I'm on top of things and that I care. Timing is everything. As soon as I'm aware of a problem, I fix it. If I can't, I'm honest with my customers and work with them to come up with workable resolutions. People are much more reasonable, I find, when they feel that you're both in this together.

The one thing that I don't do is repeat "I'm sorry" ad nauseum. Nobody cares if you're sorry. How's that going to help? Action is what people appreciate, not platitudes.

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