Getting Value from Difficult Customers
Disgruntled or angry customers are seen as a challenge by many businesses. They cause frustration, use up time and may be disruptive. However, the ‘difficult’ customer can help you identify real problems that may be holding your business back. Viewed constructively, disgruntled customers may provide important information to improve your operation and customer satisfaction, thereby positively impacting your sales.
As a general rule, the majority of dissatisfied customers often do not complain about poor service to sales staff or management. They find the process of complaining uncomfortable, aggravating and a waste of time. Most dissatisfied customers will simply take their business elsewhere without ever making a complaint. Worse still, while they may not take the time to complain to you or your staff, they may relate negative complaints to their friends and colleagues. This can create negative view of your business that can potentially damage your reputation.
Here are some steps to keep in mind for getting the most out of customer complaints.
Step 1: Listen
Not every difficult customer is reasonable or valuable. There are some who may indeed be a drain on your time and a source of aggravation. The only surefire method to judge whether a customer complaint is valid – and perhaps even valuable – is to listen and try to understand the reason for their dissatisfaction.
Step 2: Identify
As you engage with your customers remember that your goal is to identify possible problems, not to offer excuses. Empathize with the customer and try to calm their mood, especially if they are angry. It will be easier to identify the problem through a calm conversation. Be composed and concerned. Clearly indicate that you are interested in helping.
Step 3: Resolve
Once you have identified the problem, work to fix it. If it is a legitimate complaint – even one based on misunderstanding or unclear communication – try to resolve it. If it is a problem that has no immediate resolution, communicate that you understand the validity of the complaint and will look for ways to improve. If you demonstrate that you are willing to go the extra mile to help, you may turn the disgruntled customer into a loyal one.
Make complaint resolution and identification an established procedure. Ensure your frontline sales staff understand the value of customer satisfaction and actually listen to what the customer is saying. Moreover, establish a mechanism so that salespersons can report customer complaints up the management chain where they can be effectively resolved in a permanent manner. This is a benefit to all your customers and your business in the long-term.
What are your methods for dealing with challenging customers? Has a customer ever provided you with feedback that helped you improve your business? Leave a comment to share your experience.