How to Turn Customer Complaints Into Gold

Did you know that marketing isn't only about getting your clients or customers? It's also about KEEPING them, and keeping them happy. That's a big key to growing your business, because not only will those customers themselves keep coming back to you for more, but they'll send their friends and colleagues as well.

Studies done by the American Management Association show that your average HAPPY customer will tell three people about her experience with you. But your average unhappy customer will spread the negative word about you to 11 other people!

I'm sure you've done this yourself. I sure have! In fact, I can name three companies right now that I will *never* do business with again, simply because of the way they handled my complaints. (Sometimes all I wanted was for someone to say, "I'm sorry this happened, Ms. Brown!")

A System Is Your Solution

If there are any complaints you receive on a regular basis, you should be addressing them by putting systems into place to avoid those problems from happening in the first place. There's no way your business can grow with those landmines in your path.

But even after you do, remember that you are human, and so are your customers, so things will go wrong from time to time. And customers will write or call you to complain. So let's give you a system to handle these situations graciously, with integrity, and turn them around for the best!

After doing some research, I've found that most all the recommended protocols for taking care of complaining customers basically follow this 5-step process.

1. Validate the customer's feelings. Simply acknowledge that she's irritated. Example: "I can understand you are upset."

2. Assure her you'll take care of her. Let her know something will be done. Example: "I'm here to help you with this."

3. Make a "sad-glad" statement. This helps the customer realize you care. Example: "I'm sorry you experienced a problem. And I'm glad you told me about it!"

4. Ask the customer what will make HER happy. Don't let this scare you! Customer service experts say that most often the upset customer will ask for *less* than what you would have offered yourself. Example: "How can we make this better?" or "How can we make this up to you?"

5. Acknowledge that you'll do what she wants, or make a counter offer. (But always try to just give her what she wants! In the end, it will save you time and headaches, and avoid any bad word spreading about you.) Example: "I want to keep you as a customer, and we're going to honor your request." Or, "We can't do that per our agreement, but we can... [counter offer here]."

I'd also throw in a little something else for her trouble. For example, perhaps free shipping or a bonus gift.

Adjust to Fit, and Review With Your Team

Of course you should adjust this process to fit your particular business. I suggest you take a few minutes to write up a script based on these steps, and then review it with your assistant or anyone else in your business who is in contact with your clients and customers. Make any necessary changes, and then distribute it to your team and agree that everyone will follow it.

Have your team keep a log of each complaint that comes in, what it's about, and how it's handled. Then have a monthly meeting to review and suggest improvements.

2005 Alexandria K. Brown

Online entrepreneur Alexandria K. Brown, "The E-zine Queen," publishes the award-winning 'Straight Shooter Marketing' weekly ezine with 20,000+ subscribers. If you're ready to jump-start your marketing, make more money, and have more fun in your small business, get your FREE tips now at http://www.EzineQueen.com

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