Do you know how many new customers you gained last quarter? Perhaps more importantly, do you know how many you lost and why? Do you know if the customers who left you gave you a warning by leaving a complaint with someone in your organization? And, was the way in which that complaint was handled the primary reason that pushed these customers out your doors?
Spiders, who generally sit in the center of their webs, can detect when insects invade their webs long before the spider is ready to attack. The gentle movement of the web is an early warning system that lunch awaits. A complaint is like an early warning system that danger is afoot for the organization — if service or sales representatives pay attention to what their customers say and know how to recover their good will.
A Complaint Is a Gift is a performance-based customer service workshop about turning complaining customers into business opportunities, regaining customer trust, and keeping them as customers — perhaps even as more loyal customers. Service providers understand that feedback helps organizations to improve. But that doesn’t mean that they like receiving negative feedback. Everyone would prefer to receive positive feedback. Improved performance in this part of customer service requires learning how to respond in a way so conflict is diminished, emotions are handled, and problems are solved.
Complaint handling is truly performance based. You can learn all the statistics ever produced in this field and that won’t help you when facing an angry customer who is determined to leave your organization if you don’t go all out for them.
Service and sales people typically fail with complaint handling because they:
- Are not sure about what effective complaint handling is really all about, what the point is, what role they play, and why they must learn a variety of tools to use depending on the customer in front of them
- Do not know what behaviors are required of them to show customers the type of personal attention and personalized service they need to receive when customers face problems so they are brought to a feeling of wholeness
- Do not know how to collect important information from conversations with customers and how to add this information to the system, so that future mistakes are not made
- Are unable to distinguish between emotional responses and cognitive responses from customers so they can appropriately respond to needs
And yet, the above behaviors are fairly easy to learn and perfect. A Complaint Is a Gift is not only a practical “how-to” customer service program that takes participants into the world of customer relationships, but also provokes and inspires changes in related thinking, attitudes, and habits.
In a major study of seven hundred service incidents from the airline, hotel, and restaurant industries, researchers found that of all positive memories customers have of good service, fully 25 percent started out as some kind of failure in service delivery. The lesson to management is critical. Businesses do not need to run away from service breakdowns. Each company representative has a chance to turn a negative situation into a positive experience for the customer.
Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller,
A Complaint Is a Gift, 2008