Permission To Complain-Make It Easy for Your Customers To Talk To You
“A complaining client is giving us the opportunity to make things right; it’s the silent ones who hurt us. They don’t remain silent once they leave our business.”
Think about the last several times you had a disappointing experience as a customer. Did you tell anyone at the company? You left a business frustrated or hung up the phone more stressed than before you called.
If you are like most people, you don’t bother to waste your time sharing your displeasure with anyone at the business that disappointed you. Why? Because most customers don’t think anyone really cares, no one really wants to hear about it, or they will think you are trying to get away with something. So why would a customer want to waste the time? How often does it play out in your business that customers leave unhappy without letting anyone know?
If we are not making it easy for our customers to give feedback, then it is happening to us more than any of us realize. Our customers have better things to do with their time than hunt us down to complain and then feel that it didn’t make a difference.
How to get your customers to share
There are several ways to give permission to our customers to communicate with us. Now I am not talking about customer measurement devices that ask customers their level of satisfaction and how likely they are to refer. While that is vitally important, what I am referring to is something totally different. I’m talking about giving your customers permission to communicate easily, in a nonthreatening way—and not just giving them permission, but also asking for their advice and feedback, both positive and negative. Few companies ask their customers for praise and lose the opportunity to celebrate and perpetuate outstanding performance. However, even fewer companies have the courage to ask their customers for feedback if their experience was below what they were expecting.
It is so simple. It is just marketing to your customer on everything: invoices, orders, emails, at checkout, on the website, even in restrooms. Here are some examples of what companies have used:
- “Please tell us about your experience. It is very important for us to know how we are doing.”
- “We want your advice on how we can be better.”
- “Did we hit the mark today? Tell us. Did we miss? Tell us, please!”
- “Was someone a hero for you today? We want to recognize them.”
- “Were we the best part of your day? If you can’t answer yes, we need to know why.”
How accessible are you?
Umpqua Bank, based in Portland, Oregon, states that customer service is what separates them from other banks. Doesn’t every bank say that? Yes. The difference is Umpqua backs it up. First, the bank’s customer service vision is, “Making sure every customer who walks into our stores or commercial centers is a better person for having banked with us.”
There is a sign that hangs in every location: “Welcome to the World’s Greatest Bank.” This is not a tagline. It’s a state of mind, says the bank. As they like to say, “It’s where an errand turns into a pleasant escape.” Each Umpqua Bank offers a place where their customers can hang out, surf the Internet, or have a latte. Backing that up is “a promise to do better than anyone expects of us today, then do it even better tomorrow.”
Walking the talk
As the owner of a chain of upscale salons and spas in Northeast Ohio, I have always tried to make it easy for guests to get in touch with me. For years I have had signs posted that say: “I want to know about your experience and have provided my direct email.”
I thought this was successful because every so often I would get an email sharing feedback. However, I realized if I really wanted to back up our experience, I needed to show our guests that I was serious about hearing from them. So I added my cell phone number. This is also posted on the John Robert’s website. My salons and spas see more than 10,000 customers every month (pre-Covid, of course).
To my surprise, I didn’t get as many phone calls as I thought I would, but what I did get was a dramatic increase in guests emailing me. Even though I had always offered my email in the past, the mere fact that I was willing to share my cell phone number made them realize that I really wanted to know, which made them care more about my business and want to help me by sharing when things are not as good as they could be. The other surprising thing was the increase in positive stories I started receiving. This allowed me to recognize, share, and celebrate these stories company-wide, which in turn perpetuated that type of behavior.
John R. DiJulius III, author of The Customer Service Revolution, is president of The DiJulius Group, a customer service consulting firm that works with companies including Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, Ritz-Carlton, Nestle, PwC, Lexus, and many more. Contact him at 216-839-1430 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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