Complaints Make a Better Company

Jul 01, 2002

Worse than getting a complaint from a customer is when customers don’t complain. Complaints are an opportunity to improve your company and establish customers for life, according to Rhonda Abrams, author of The Successful Business Organizer. She recommends taking a close look at reactions to complaints, and incorporating the following into a customer feedback program:

  • Apologize: Saying “We’re sorry” is an important first step to let customers
    know you care.

  • Don’t use the excuse, “It’s company policy.” The only policy your company
    should have is: “We do our very best to solve every problem. We want our customers
    to be completely satisfied.”

  • Recognize a complaint as an opportunity. Only 20 percent to 50 percent of
    all customers with problems will tell you. If you handle a complaint well,
    you can turn a dissatisfied customer into a customer for life.

  • Encourage feedback. Make it easy for customers to let you know how they
    feel. Many companies give customers cards to rate the service and make comments.

  • Don’t mislead and don’t over-promise. Many companies get into trouble because
    they use misleading or confusing advertising or sales techniques to attract

  • Don’t blame the customer. “You ordered the wrong thing.” “You didn’t follow
    directions.” When you blame a customer, they see it as a personal attack.

  • Give front-line sales and service people authority. My friend returned an
    $8 bath rug to a store and had to get three approvals for a refund. The store’s
    bureaucratic policies lost a customer.

  • Don’t be cheap. Correcting mistakes is a normal and necessary cost of doing
    business. Trying to save a few dollars but losing a customer is penny-wise,

  • Admit errors and solve the problem. Be determined to get to the root of
    the problem and make it better for the customer. If something is wrong, fix

Moderator Comment: How can retailers learn (in a timely
fashion) if consumers are walking away unhappy even though they do not voice

  • Consumers have numerous shopping options today.

  • It is cheaper to keep existing customers than to attract
    new ones.

  • It is even less costly to make an existing customer
    happy than to get them back once they have gone to the competition. Consumers
    have long memories.

  • A consumer may not complain to a store manager but
    she/he will let every one in their family, business and social circles know
    just what they think about a retailer that has given them cause to complain.

Anderson – Moderator

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