It's the kind of thing that's seldom thought of, particularly in the customer service field. There's a great opportunity in every complaining customer to make a new friend for the business, one that follows the brand, one that's willing to offer powerful word of mouth advertising, and one that's willing to stick with a business for life. But like all opportunities, it takes effort and diligence to realize, and there are some techniques to remember in order to turn that complaining customer into a valuable new friend of the business.
First, it's suggested that users look to what benefits a complaint can provide. There's often something valuable in a complaint, particularly if it's echoed over large numbers of users. Are a lot of people complaining about prices or availability? Maybe it's time to readjust. Moreover, it's worth considering how many people feel the same way as the one making the complaint, but don't have the time or the energy to put forth the complaint. Yet a study from White House Office of Consumer Affair says that, when a customer gets an issue resolved satisfactorily, said customer will then tell an average of four to six other people about the experience. If 100 users a day call in and get satisfactory results, that's between 2800 and 4200 people reached with a great, unsolicited statement of the company's skill and value in customer service.
But this means a clear commitment to customer service. Taking advantage of this kind of potential requires having the right customer service staff, a group of people who work well in a positive culture and take the opportunity to show a complaining customer the right kind of treatment that gets said customer talking. The team in question needs to be empowered with solutions, not just a list of policies to quote to the customer.
Further, the team in question needs to have a strong sense of empathy, the ability to imagine how something would affect said customer service representative if the roles were reversed. With a strong sense of empathy, the customer service agent is more likely to help the customer achieve a satisfactory outcome, the first time, every time. That means a focus on first-time resolution and a level of authority given to customer service is going to be very important here. But with that kind of power comes responsibility, to be measured through call monitoring systems and complete 360 degree feedback in an effort to find where mistakes are made and how to address these. Finally, firms must consider the value of social media, as a great many complaints are made through this newer channel. Being ready to spot—but also address—such complaints in rapid fashion will help considerably in the race to turn complainers into friends.
Vigilance is the watchword here, and through that vigilance comes a great improvement in overall operations. Bringing in the best of customer service staff, and keeping said staff at its best, will go a long way toward turning complaints into valuable new friends, those who will stick with a brand at its best and at its worst. Complaints can be very valuable; such things are often the truest indicators of where a company needs to improve, and to actually stage those improvements means a great turnaround, enough to make most anyone reconsider plans to not do business with a company any longer. What a company does with those complaints is what determines if it will be successful...or another failure.