Turning Customer Complaints Into Gold Part 1 – Embrace Complaints

In my previous post, Turning Customer Complaints Into Gold, I wrote about how customer complaints are awesome and can be one of the most useful inputs for you to grow your business and set yourself apart in the marketplace.

A brief outline of the topics that I’ll be covering in various parts:

  1. Embrace Complaints
  2. Dive deeper in understanding your customers
  3. Define and implement an engagement strategy
  4. Create new benefits that will better serve your customers
  5. Build a retention program that encompasses your engagement strategy and new benefit offerings

Today, I’ll be going over #1 Embrace Complaints.

In general complaints are not fun to deal with. Customers are unhappy, frustrated, and sometimes rude. At the same time, your customer care group is also unhappy and frustrated.

However, with all that, there is a sense of “I’m awesome” when a customer care agent solves an issue for a customer quickly and is empowered to make some quick decisions to make sure that the customer is left satisfied.

So what do I mean by Embrace Complaints?

In many of the meetings that I’ve been in with the Compliance and Regulatory groups, complaints is the number 1 issue discussed and what’s being done to reduce them and what are some quality measures being put in place so that they don’t happen again.

This more times than not, puts complaints under a negative perspective and stifles the ability to have a broader view on what’s going on with your customer base.

To me, embracing complaints means to refer to them as Improvement Opportunities and don’t only keep the scope around Operations or Sales practices, but expand it to product functionality or service offering.

By doing this, the conversation is now about what can we do together to take our service or product to the next level.

Start the meetings with a positive perspective so that when people come in it’s not the “oh what now” mentality.

Complaints are direct feedback from customers. Why do we ask employees to embrace their performance review feedback and look at the negatives as constructive criticism, and yet, we don’t ask this of the company as a whole when it comes to our customers providing us feedback on our performance???

Here’s an interesting example that I faced….

We rolled out a new prepaid product in the market and I was responsible for creating a new sales channel that catered to cash-based customers. In the beginning the channel was struggling with acquisition, compliance, and customer complaints.

As the team looked deeper, it was all related. Many of the customer complaints that came in where of customers who thought they signed up with us, yet the switch never happened and they thought that there was a bait-n-switch scenario.

So we took a look at the entire process and realized that we had to (bound by regulations) to cancel many enrollments due to missing signatures on switch authorizations. There was a huge gap, we never did inform the customer or the sales channel partners of the canceled enrollments.

My team took it a step further, we looked at how we can better improve the enrollment process since that was the underlying issue.

In short summary, we developed an electronic switch authorization that allowed customers to provide their authorization via SMS text.

Needless to say, sales went up, complaints went down, and we had a new enrollment process that our competition did not have.

We could have totally taken a different approach and said that the new channel isn’t working and shut it down. If we did that, we would have not created an innovative mechanism to make the customer journey smoother and also get our channel partners more effective in selling.

Remember, a customer may leave you not because they are unhappy, but because there is a gap in your product/service that doesn’t meet their need.

A few things to help with embracing complaints and creating a culture shift:

  1. Keep the internal discussions positive, it’s an opportunity to improve or even better to create something new
  2. Expand the scope to other groups outside of Operations and Sales
  3. Appreciate the fact that your customers are taking the time to engage with you before they decide to just leave
  4. Provide an avenue for customers to also provide critical feedback outside of the complaints channel

Customers who take the time and effort to reach out to voice their concerns is an engaged customer and wants to stay. It is when they become silent that you should be concerned.

Take a step back, dive a deeper into the complaint(s), and embrace it as an Improvement Opportunity!

Up next…#2 Diving Deeper to Understand Your Customers

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