Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business. Zig Ziglar, U.S. author and speaker

As much as you want your customers to be completely satisfied with your product or service, it’s rare for any business to have 100 percent client satisfaction. The key is to have an open channel of communications with your customers so they feel comfortable talking to you, your managers or your CSRs (customer service representatives) when they are not completely satisfied.

These “moments of truth” are great opportunities to let your customer know how much you value their business and their feedback. This applies to B2C and B2B businesses alike.

Statistics from the cellular phone industry show 30 percent “churn” per year from customers who never complain and only 17 percent “churn” from those that do complain – a 43 percent reduction!

Granted your industry may be more stable than the cellular telephone industry, but the fact is if you don’t know what’s bothering your customers, you don’t have an opportunity to address those things.

Customer interactions provide great insight on product or service improvements that are desired and that your customers may even be willing to pay more for. You would also prefer for your customers to talk about their concerns with you versus their friends, business associates or your competitors.

My goal for my clients is to get their customers to be “raving fans.” Word of mouth advertising is the most effective and cost efficient marketing communications your company can have. Word of mouth, or “buzz,” is exactly what a raving fan can provide for your business. In fact, the higher the purchase price, the more affluent the buyer, the more important referrals become.

You can monitor customer satisfaction with on-going surveys – paper, telephone or Internet. Just make sure you leave plenty of room for comments rather than just having the customer check a box. It’s important to know why a customer checked a particular box and give them the opportunity to expound on the problem or issue they are having.

A better way is to talk to customers directly – either in person or on the telephone – especially those that have taken the time to contact your company with a concern. This enables you, or your representative, to address the concern directly, ask prudent follow-up questions and even brainstorm with the customer on how you can better meet their needs.

Odds are if one customer is bringing a problem to your attention, many others are having the same problem as well, they’re just not willing to raise the issue. These are the people that are likely shopping for another solution.

When talking to a dissatisfied customer remember why you have two ears and one mouth. Take notes, validate and look for mutually beneficial solutions. Once the solution has been implemented, circle back with the customer to let them know what you’ve done and ask them if they’ve noticed a difference. With some nurturing, this customer may become a valuable reference and even a raving fan.

For larger companies, with a large customer base, I recommend on-going customer satisfaction measurement and improvement programs where we identify key satisfaction drivers in the decision making process and then measure your company’s performance against those key drivers.

The most important design element of this quantitative customer satisfaction research is the certainty that the performance attributes measured are the key drivers of customer satisfaction. This can be done with regression analysis following the initial quantitative surveys.

How often you “check in” with customers depends on the frequency with which they buy from you. A restaurant may want to give the customer the opportunity to provide feedback after every visit while an industrial parts supplier may feel comfortable surveying their clients once a year.

I recommend checking in at least once a year to let your customers know you’re thinking about them and you care about what they think about your products and the services you are providing.

Once you have this feedback we can create a customer bonding program that will help you keep more of your customers and more of your revenue. I’ve implemented programs in several industries that have reduced attrition, or increased renewals, by 25 to 30 percent.

Regardless of your industry, or your business model, customers and clients are critical to your success. Open the lines of communications and get them to complain. Your business, and you, will be better off when they do.

Tom Smith

Experienced marketing professional who has worked with more than 120 clients in 18 different vertical industries. ♦ Differentiate products and services by improving UX and delivering memorable CX to create an emotional connection to the brand. ♦ Obtain insights from analytics to solve business problems and drive revenue. ♦ Develop and implement marketing campaigns that double traffic and leads in three months. ♦ Certified Marketing Automation Professional ♦ Certified Voice of the Customer (VOC) Professional