When you have your own company, and you are lucky enough to have customers, a major part of successfully running and growing that business is dealing with people. And avoiding customer complaints is a good start.  People will complain; some complain a lot and others you’ll never hear a peep from even though they are complaining on the inside, or to their 400 besties on Facebook. Even the most vigilant and well-intentioned business can fall victim to circumstances beyond their control that end in a negative experience on both sides. But if you begin by being informed and customer-focused you can do a lot to avoid customer complaints.

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In her book “Understanding Customers,” Ruby Newell-Legner explains that a typical business hears from only 4% of its dissatisfied customers. Doing the math that is an overwhelming 96% of dissatisfied customers who are not complaining, 91% of which will never come back. Doing the following activities can help you shrink the number of dissatisfied customers and avoid customer complaints.

3 Things You Should Do To Avoid Customer Complaints

Get Customer Feedback and Use It to Avoid Customer Complaints

avoiding_customers_complainFor your business to succeed you need to know your market and to avoid complaints you need to understand your customers. Market studies can give you an overall view of your industry or region but getting feedback specific to your business from your own customers gives you invaluable information. You’ll learn where to make improvements and which activities are the most effective in running your business. Continue to seek fresh intel as your company grows and evolves because what customers loved about your staff and hated about your weekend hours is not going to stay the same after you’ve replaced three customer-facing employees and changed your hours to include half-days on Sundays.

True customer insight can only come from soliciting feedback on a continuous basis. You want to make this easy for both your business and the customer. Do that by create an internal process that tracks and handles customer feedback through the whole cycle from solicitation to resolution. You can do these necessary tasks manually by collecting your customers contact information, creating surveys and feedback forms, and gathering the feedback – which will be time consuming. Or you could use a software like Reputation Loop which provides an almost hands-free system that automates every step of the customer feedback cycle starting with asking for and gathering feedback from all your customers. From there Reputation Loop routes positive feedback to popular review sites for posting and negative feedback back to you so you know what customers are saying and what problems need to be addressed with the dissatisfied customer. This important step lets you resolve the customer’s issue and improve your business.

With a system like this in place you will know what is working great, and what areas customers are stating are in need of improvement. This is one of those, “The customer is always right” situations. You are bound to get a serial-complainer whose fills the holes in his heart by writing negative reviews everywhere he goes and you will need to just grin and bear those to minimize their impact. But generally customer complaints are revealing pain points and showing areas where your business can do better. If you are seeing a pattern of complaints about a specific person, area, process or product – FIX IT NOW. Soon you will see that if you listen to the customers and make improvements, there is nothing left for the customers to complain about.

Provide Consistent & Quality Customer Service

superior_customer_service_statDON’T SKIP THIS SECTION. A lot of people will read this subtitle and think “We hands down provide the best service in the business” and skip this topic. But there is a real disconnect between what businesses feel is “quality” customer service and what customers are experiencing. This crossroad is where you need to be sure to not confuse great customer service with faster, cheaper, or friendlier customer service.

You may have invested a lot of time and money into improving your company’s customer service department or you confident that you’ve hired the happiest associates in the city. But you may find that self-service tools and fancy customer contact technology like online chatting and email-only customer support are great in theory, but they are no substitute for a well-informed customer care team made of up humans who can solve problems and answer questions.

In a study by global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company they found that 70% of the total buying experience for a customer was based on how they felt they were being “treated” – not on the product or the price. Whether your business is just you and your aunt Joyce, or you have partners and 1000 employees, the highest level of customer service should be your minimum standard. Armed with clear policies and processes that are supported from the top down, customers will feel the “quality” of customer service your business provides. You will avoid customer complaints because when your customers have concerns or questions, they are addressed in real-time and never given a chance to grow into a problem.

Listen to customer feedback and take a walk in the customers’ shoes to see where problems may exist, focusing first on customer contact points such as customer-facing employees, website user experience, and payment processes. Can your sales people benefit from some scripting and role-play training? Do your website analytics show that people are abandoning their purchase at the payment page? Find ways to make the improvements that create a better buying experience for your customer.

 

Take the Good with the Bad

While no one wants to get a complaint, there is a silver lining to this otherwise negative situation. You are being handed valuable information with which to improve your business. In addition, when customer complaints and bad reviews are handled the right way those customers feel even more positive about your business than they would have if everything met their expectations with their first interaction. By positively and efficiently handling their complaint, you’ve exceeded their expectations and have an opportunity to build a relationship with a loyal customer.

Also READ: Using Online Reviews to Improve Your Business

loyal_customers_10_timesBeing responsive to customer concerns combined with your business’s positive interactions with dissatisfied customers show customers that you consider them a vital part to the solution in these situation and not just the source of the problem. They have just told you something that you can fix to alleviate the dissatisfaction of other customers and improve your business. You might want to thank them for that.

When you consider the very low number of actual complaints received from any pool of dissatisfied customers, you can see the value in receiving any insight on which areas of your business need attention so you can make the informed decisions that allow you to address problems quickly and avoid customer complaints.

 

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Zach_Color_Trans_small_CroppedAbout The Author

Zach Anderson is the co-founder of Reputation Loop (helping small businesses grow by generating customer feedback and online reviews) who loves online marketing and golf.