One of the most annoying, stressful, worrying and potentially time-consuming things any small business owner can receive is a customer complaint.
No matter what it’s about or how serious it is, the simple fact is if a customer is complaining, it means they’re unhappy with some aspect of your business.
Leading many small business owners into a state of panic, in many ways it’s understandable – no one likes to hear anything negative said about them, but it can be even worse when it’s about something you’ve nurtured and developed.
And although there are no two ways about it, customer complaints have negative connotations, every cloud has a silver lining and with the right management, there’s every possibility you can benefit from a customer complaint
With lots to consider, the very first thing you need to do is be 100% confident in your complaint management system.
Whether it’s a relatively simple Excel spreadsheet or an elaborate bespoke system, being able to record complaints in full is the basis upon which any positive outcomes from a complaint are achieved.
You need to know as much detail as you possibly can about all complaints and be able to draw upon that information as and when you need.
Now the way you can benefit from a customer complaint comes from your next move – or more specifically, what you do with the data you’ve been given.
Putting to one side the fact you’ll have resolved the complaint in some way (that’s generally not where the positive aspects can be seen most), the easiest way to benefit from a customer complaint is by analysing your entire complaints data.
Is the new complaint about a complete one-off topic or is it part of a recurring theme? Did the customer complain at the same time as others or about the same member of staff / process as others have done in the past? What about the channel the complaint was made on – is it an active one that the majority of complaints are made on or is it one you stumbled across accidentally?
When you start asking yourself these questions, you can start to develop a process about how you can benefit moving forward.
For example, let’s say five of the most recent complaints you’d had -about poor customer service – were made on either a Monday morning or Wednesday afternoon. Although no staff names were provided, a look at your rota may reveal that only one member of staff works on both of those days.
Whilst this shouldn’t be considered a guaranteed way to find out which employees aren’t performing, it should give you a good indication of which employees to potentially monitor and look at arranging some customer service training for.
A similar situation can be seen when you’re receiving complaint after complaint about a certain product. On the surface they may all seem like they’ve been made for different reasons, but a little digging may reveal that they’re actually all about the same minor issue.
Therefore, as soon as you resolve the issue you should be able to practically guarantee no future complaints about it will be made, resulting in a happier customer base overall.
Customer complaints are negative, but they don’t have to be completely so – you just have to know how to learn from what your complaining customers are telling you to ensure you’re actually able to benefit from them time and time again.
This post was originally featured on February 26, 2013.