Gain New Customers By Referrals By Having A Customer Complaint Policy That Ensures Customer Satisfaction
In this article learn how having a strong customer complaint policy can not only make sure you don't lose customers but also gain new customers, via referral. The article outlines 6 key items to include in our customer complaint policy that can result in an increase in revenue.
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The Big Idea
About a month ago I had a unique experience that created an "ah ha" moment. It made me think of a new way any business could get new customers.....customer complaints. Let me explain.
It was a Wednesday afternoon, I was sitting at my desk with the bright sun beaming in through the window. It was a nice day. I got an email from a disgruntled customer of one of our clients. At that moment I thought my nice day was going to turn into a bad one. The email from the unhappy customer explained that our client's company delivered the wrong product. Basically our client had delivered the wrong format of the the product the customer ordered. The customer ordered a large jug of water and our client delivered individual water bottles. To make the problem worse, my client only delivers to that town once every 2 weeks so there was no way of picking up the wrong product and delivering the new one until another 10 days. The customer was not going to wait 10 days. There was a good chance no matter what I did they would be finding another supplier if I could not do something.
The customer was very upset, distraught and was not happy having to pay for something they did not order. To ease the customer's concern I called them, listened to what they had to say and let them vent. Then I quickly thought to my self, the cost of the product we sent them did not cost that much, I could give them if for free, people like getting things for free. So what I did was empathize that she should not have to pay for things she did not order. I then continued to propose to the customer that we would allow them to keep the individual water bottles for free and the next time we deliver to their location we would deliver the product they wanted, the large jug of water. Even though the item I was giving them was of relatively low cost, but still of value to the customer and the customer immediately changed their tone. To be honest she almost sounded excited. Like she had won the lottery or something. I never thought anything so small could have such an impact on a person's emotions. It blew my mind.
After thinking about it more I realized that what made this lady change her emotions so quickly was that
1. She was not used to companies taking the time to listen to her problem, understand her problem and empathize with her
2. She was getting something for free
3. She was not used to getting things for free from companies like my clients or companies in general
I quickly realized that this lady was not used to this kind of treatment and that this is the way most people probably feel about most companies. The challenge is that is it hard to instruct customer service, sales managers and all employees to handle customer complaints in that manner. It is only natural for us as humans to not want to listen and to want to find a solution that will not cost us anything. The return on investment of making a disgruntled customer happy though could be one of the highest return on investment marketing methods there are. This is because often the cost can be very low and keep any employee loyal for many years to come, resulting in a large sum of revenue over those years.
The amazing part about this story is that later that week that same customer emailed a colleague of hers and cced me. The email was encouraging her colleague to sign up for my clients services. As a result of that email my client ended up getting an additional customer. That is when it really hit me, if you can solve a disgruntled customers complaint and do so in a way that over delivers on their expectations and delights them.....then you can use customer complaints to actually grow your business.
Keys To Creating A Customer Complaint Policy That Will Ensure Customer Satisfaction And Generate Referrals
1. Listen To Understand The Problem
The easiest thing to do is to argue with the customer. The best thing to do is listen to the customer first without doing anything else. A great example is that I recently had some warranty work done on my bathtub. This should have been a way for the company to deepen its relationship with me by standing by its 4 year warranty. Instead the company representative argued with me. After that experience I will definitely not use that company again and will tell my friends and family to stay away from that company. They did stand behind their warranty but I had such a bad experience and just did not get a good feeling from dealing with them that I would tell other people not to use them. If you listen and only listen to the customer, they will feel valued, important and heard. In your policy ensure you clearly outline that the first step is to only listen and ask clarification questions until the customer is exhausted talking.
The next key to include in your policy is to ensure you somehow empathize with the customer. By letting the customer know your company understands why they are frustrated and can see why they would not be happy the customer will feel heard. This again will build trust and deepen the relationship with your customer. An example would be saying or writing something like "I can understand how having the wrong product does not help you and that people in the office are taking their frustration out on you. That would definitely be frustrating and not pleasant."
3. Ask Questions Needed For A Solution
The next step would be to ask any necessary questions for the particular product that will allow you to rectify the situation. Make sure in your policy you document the information that needs to be collected so that none of it is missed. This might be model numbers, the persons address...whatever is necessary for your particular product or service. The worst thing that can happen is that you need to bug the customer again for information or that you make a mistake solving their problem. I think almost all people will give a company a chance to correct a situation but after the 2nd or 3rd mistake most customers will not be very tolerant.
4. Take Action That Will Over Deliver On The Customers Expectations
Here is the meat of how to gain customers by customer complaints. Solve the customers problem but do so in a way that makes them elated and is above their expectations. A great way to do this is to give them something that they value for free. People love getting things for free. It is hard to be upset when you are getting something for free. Make sure it is of value in the customer's eyes. If what you are giving is of no value in their eye's then you will only look cheap and like you don't care. A great thing to do is to ask how satisfied they are with the proposed solution. Offer a 1 to 10 scale with an 11 or 12 as an option. This will give you an indication of how many customers are elated with your customer complaint solutions by the number of people that score your solution as an 11 or 12.
5. Include A Follow Up Process
A critical piece to the customer complaint policy is to include a follow up process that will ensure the client is satisfied with the solution. Probably the best way to do this would be to schedule a phone call 3-7 days after the solution has been agreed to, to make sure the solution is finished and satisfactory. By making it personal with a phone call after the fact it will convey that your company really does care about its customers.
6. Ask Them To Post Feedback On The Process On Your Social Media Sites
As part of your policy and process ensure that after you follow-up with the disgruntled customer that you ask your customers if they would be willing to provide you feedback on your customer complaint process. If they say yes send them link to where they can leave their feedback on social media. The reason you want to have them do this on social media is that you want other people to be able to see your customers thoughts on how your company deals with complaints. A prospect will be eager to buy from you if they see a long list of customers talking about how great of a job your company did dealing with their complaint. I think all people know problems will happen from time to time, what people are interested in is how your company will react to those problems and how your company treats its customers.
7. Ask Them For A Referral
The best time to ask for a referral is when your customer is the happiest. If you have a good customer complaint policy then one of the times your customers should be the happiest is after you resolve a complaint. Include in your policy and process that after you follow up with the disgruntled customer and have got their feedback, ask them if they know of anyone that could benefit from your products or services.
My name is Chris R. Keller. I work at Profitworks Small Business Services helping various B2B small businesses in Waterloo and Kitchener Ontario generate new customers via our full marketing service solution. Feel free to connect with me on Google+ or if you are just interested in getting new customers for your small businesses enter your email in the box provided below and click the "Send Me Free Marketing Insights" button.
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