Every organisation has customers who complain. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a small business who has only been in operation a few months or a global conglomerate who’s been delivering a service for over a century, you can’t please everyone and therefore some of your customers are going to tell you how they feel.
In theory, the idea is to keep these complaints to a minimum. You obviously want to be delivering the best service / highest quality products you possibly can and so the more you do this, tailoring your offerings to your target audience as best you can, the more satisfied your customers will be and the less reason they’ll have to complain.
And over time, the more you get to understand your audience, the fewer complaints you’re likely to receive. When this happens, it’s party time! You can take a bit of time out to enjoy the fact fewer customers are complaining, thank your staff and give yourself a pat on the back.
However, as strange as it may sound, what you also need to do is work out why your customers have stopped complaining. Yes, you may have developed a better understanding of them and have therefore been able to deliver more tailored products or services, but can you say for certain this is the reason for them stopping complaining?
Are complaints actually decreasing?
Going on the assumption you’re accurately recording all of your customers’ complaints (something that is crucial to fully benefiting from what your customers are telling you), one of the first things you should do when complaint numbers start to decrease is look at the complaint figures over a period of time.
Did complaints suddenly decrease or have they slowly been getting less and less over the course of a few weeks or months? If you find your complaints come in peaks and troughs, are you just in the middle of a trough and in the near future you should expect another peak? Have your complaints been unusually high in recent times and this decrease is actually just your complaint figures getting back to ‘normal’?
Did complaints decrease because of something you did?
Next, you need to look at affecting factors that in some way, shape or form are outside of your control. For example, if you’re a ski wear company, chances are business is a little slow during the summer months. Therefore, it’s highly likely that complaints are going to reflect this – it’s simple maths, as the less people you have buying products from you, the less chance there is of a customer complaining.
Similarly, things such as the weather may have a huge effect. It might seem obvious when you think about it, but how many business owners in New York, for example, would contribute a low number of complaints throughout November to Sandy? Yes, the storm may not have hit during November, but do you really think people are going to have time to complain about a product they bought a few weeks ago when they’re trying to rebuild their home?
Can your customers still complain easily?
Another point to look into is how easy it is for your customers to actually complain. Any business can make it difficult for customers to complain (in fact, a lot of the bigger companies do), but that doesn’t mean the amount of customers who have grievances decreases – it just means you aren’t willing to listen to them.
And this point in particular is worth looking at intently if complaint numbers have decreased, as you can often appear to be ignoring complaints unintentionally because of a change to your processes.
For instance, it’s not often advisable to manage your customers’ complaints on social media, as you’re essentially airing your dirty laundry in public. However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t speak to your complaining customers on social media, but this is where so many businesses go wrong.
Refusing to answer any type of complaint on Twitter, for example, will do nothing but further aggravate your customers and make them more frustrated than they need to be. Instead, you have to acknowledge their complaint and do your best to move it away from the platform. Sometimes this will work effortlessly, as you can call the customer directly, but other times you’ll no doubt get a bit of backlash when you ask them to e-mail through their issue.
Whatever you do, though, it won’t be as bad as ignoring the complaint completely – and by not using social media as part of your business strategy, this could be exactly what you end up doing. Therefore, although you won’t have to be dealing with complaints via social media and your complaint numbers will reflect this, you’re also likely to have a hugely dissatisfied customer base, which will have a negative impact on your organisation as a whole.
Customer complaints are tricky. A lot of business owners think you just have to give the customer what they want, ensure they are at least satisfied with what you’ve told them or provided them with and that’s the end of the complaint process. As great as it would be if it was that simple, you need to be constantly analysing your customers’ complaints – even when they appear to have stopped complaining about you.