Why Complaining Customers Don’t Lie
“Buyers are liars.” You’ve heard it and experienced it. Why is this true? Because you do it, too.
You’re thinking, “What are you talking about, Mark? I don’t tell a lie.”
When eating at a restaurant, how often do you complain to your friend that your meal isn’t what you expect. Yet when the waitress stops and asks, “How’s everything?” You reply with a flat, “Fine.” She cheerily dashes off to fill the next customer’s coffee assuming you told her the truth.
Guilty as charged? I thought so.
Why do we do this? Because we don’t want to make a scene. Because we don’t want an uncomfortable confrontation. Because it’s not that important. Because we can just leave and never come back.
Yet, the best thing you could do for that restaurant is let them know that you’re not satisfied. How can they improve when they think their product is satisfactory, just like you told them?
Are your customers any different? Nope. Customers leave and never come back and you’ll never know why. Business gets worse and you blame the competition when it’s all your fault.
How can you fix this in your business for good?
Separate Real Complaints from Fake Complaints
Yes, there are people who try to game the system, attempting to get something for nothing by throwing a fit. They never got beyond the terrible twos and still throw a tantrum to get what they want. Pity their parents, spouse, and friends.
If you’ve had any customer experience, you can spot them instantly. Here’s how to separate their play acting from a real complaint.
If you think they are trying to take advantage of you, say, “There are two types of complaining customers: ones that have real issues with our business, and ones that fake an issue to get something for nothing. You’re in that first category aren’t you.”
You’ll notice that in most cases, they’ll settle down immediately. If they threaten to call the cops, you know they’re in the second category. Use your customer service policy to decide what to do next.
(Don’t take my advice here, but I’d say, “Please do. Just know that you’ll be here for the next few hours waiting for the police to arrive to a non-emergency call and dealing with their paperwork. And when you do, our legal team takes over because we take slander and libel threats seriously and so I won’t be able to help you.”)
Love Unhappy Customers
Complaining customers have the common decency to let you know why their dissatisfied. They give you the opportunity to preserve the relationship and improve your product, process, or training. They are worth every penny you invest in turning them around and learning from their experience. After all, what do you spend in product development, marketing, and sales to acquire a customer? Isn’t it worth a bit more to keep them?
Instead of trying to mollify them, stop what you’re doing and engage in a conversation with meaningful questions. Don’t start with an apology, it’s too early for them to accept it, so it comes off as being insincere.
Acknowledge their state and ask a simple question.
“I can see you’re upset and I want to understand what’s happening. What’s wrong?”
“What were you expecting?”
“What would you like to happen?”
If what they ask is reasonable and within your power. Then say…
“First, let me apologize for the situation. I know you were unhappy and I’m grateful that you had the courage to call it to my attention. Most customers just leave and never come back. What I can do is… Is that acceptable?”
Once they agree, ask the critical question: “Will you forgive me and my team?”
If they do, the situation is over and psychologically they can’t complain about it anymore because it’s cheesy to un-forgive someone.
If they don’t, you asked too soon before they were ready to forgive you.
To recap: here’s the correct order for loving an unhappy customer:
1. Understand the situation
2. Discover the desired remedy
3. Apologize for the injury
4. Apply the remedy
5. Ask for forgiveness
6. Alter your procedure to prevent a reoccurrence.
Bad Reviews Make for Better Business
There are two types of bad reviewers: competition trying to degrade your product and real complaints where you missed the mark.
You can usually tell the competitive reviews as they are nit-picky, recommend their own product as a better alternative, and often contain personal attacks on your people. If you can prove your competition wrote it, have your attorney send them a letter because this is slander. If you can’t prove it, respond that this review should be disregarded because you’ve heard these same slanderous comments from your competition.
You never want to misrepresent your competition as the legal implications can be egregious. In fact, I suggest never making any derogatory remark about your competition. It never delivers the impact that you want.
The real complaints give you the opportunity to contact them, learn from them, make it right, and have them post a follow up review that sets the record straight.
All companies have a bad day, a bad product lot, or an employee who goes off the rails. The test of a great company is how they handle that situation and what they learn from it. You get to illustrate to your customers and prospects how you deal with it, adding to the value of your brand and creating competitive advantage.
Let’s have a conversation about growing your business through strategic planning, marketing plans, executive coaching, and customer acquisition systems. Find a mutually agreeable time at MarksSchedule.com or contact me.