The stress of a sales life can be demanding enough without the constant obstacle of customer complaints. And, this is true even with a good product and good service. According to the 2013 National Customer Rage Survey from Arizona State University, customer dissatisfaction has increased dramatically (up almost 10% from the 2011 survey).
And customers aren’t just unhappy, they’re livid. The amount of swearing and yelling in customer dissatisfaction instances has increased by over 10% as well.
Businesses have taken these numbers in stride, pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into flatlining customer service programs. Recent research from Accenture showed that 76% of B2B organizations are using almost half of their customer service funds on programs that don’t truly satisfy customers. Still, 43% of these same companies are planning on increasing spending in 2015.
It’s clear that the problem is not how much money to spend on customer service, but how to listen to the real concerns and meet the needs that aren’t being clearly stated. In order to stop bleeding out customer service funds, sales professionals need to know the secret customer signals that will help you turn a hater into a customer for life.
A funny complaint about your business is probably not going to tank your sales engine. Why? Because people who read and write funny complaints online don’t take them as seriously as deadpan rants. In a study from Texas A&M University, researchers found that only 6% of humorous complaints were meant to warn others.
Still, there is usually a core of truth in every joke. While it’s important not to take humorous complaints too seriously, it is vital to see the underlying issue at work. Especially if the complaint is via a public forum like Facebook or Twitter, people tend to remember humorous comments more. Try to recognize and respond appropriately, and with as much humor as you can muster.
Any time you hear the phrase, “This is the ______ time I’ve had a problem with your organization,” get ready to do some major customer restitution. In the Texas A&M survey, 37% of respondents said they would switch brands after one poor company experience, while another 58% said they would give an organization 2-3 chances for success. That means that 95% of people won’t last past a third bad customer experience.
If a customer is bringing up numbers to you, they are secretly telling you that they’d like to stay with your company. Subconsciously, they know that they logically can’t stay with a business that is continually losing their information, mismanaging their account, or treating them poorly. See through the ruse and recognize that this is a person who wants to be loyal, you just need to step up your game.
The Speed Ruse
Often, customers will tell you that they are in a rush and don’t have time – even when it comes to receiving customer service. Unfortunately, this is often untrue. In fact, even the most rushed customer is willing to take a couple of extra minutes to get his or her needs met.
In a recent Gallup study, researchers showed that the more personable and “thorough” a customer service interaction is, the more likely it is to be regarded as high quality. The speed of service was much less important than the person-to-person interaction that happened. Unfortunately, speeding up the customer assistance process can actually harm customer service, potentially seeming rude and impersonal, which is the number one cause of brand abandonment.
Silence is golden, except in sales. Then, it’s deadly.
Research suggests that the number of customer complaints your organization receives is just a fraction of the number of customers that have silent complaints or who have left for reasons that you don’t know. From a customer’s perspective, this makes sense. Why complain to an organization when you can just as easily take your business elsewhere.
If your company has a series of “They just left for no reason,” you are looking at a silent complaint plague of potentially devastating proportions. If possible, you need to talk to your exiting clients and get an honest understanding of the complaints they don’t feel comfortable sharing. This is the only way to improve your company and find new ways of keeping your hard-earned customers.
Recognize the Negativity
Don’t feel like every customer with a gripe is worth your time and effort; there are just some people who love to complain. Instead, make sure that you’ve set up a system whereby you can hear and respond to customer complaints in a way that allows you to maintain your integrity.
For example, if you have a customer who constantly complains about price, feel free to add value or make concessions – to a point. Make sure that point is clear to your sales staff and the customer both. Then, when he comes back to complain again about the price, stick to your plan. Even though you might lose a customer, you’d be losing a bad, time-consuming customer. Think of it as an investment in the kind of prospects that will respect your product as much as you respect their input.
Although no one likes to be told that they’re doing something wrong, customer complaints are a gold mine of valuable information. By really listening to your customers and understanding the underlying motivations for their complaints, you can build a better business and create long-term relationships that lead to selling success.