How do I respond to my detractors?
At Listen360, we recommend that you aggressively pursue customer complaints. Only 10% of dissatisfied customers will voluntarily call or write to tell you what they're feeling. But that doesn't mean they're not telling everyone else! Silent detractors communicate their feelings in the form of unpaid invoices, discourteous interactions with your employees, and disparaging conversations about you to their friends and family -- your potential new customers.
It's clear that quickly identifying your detractors is important to your bottom line. But how can you effectively monitor your customer feedback and interact with your detractors in a way that will repair your damaged relationship and encourage their future patronage of your business?
We'll tell you how! Based on our experiences with thousands of business owners and customers, here are the most successful Best Practices:
1. Determine whether or not the customer issue actually warrants a response
You're busy. Responding to rants or degrading comments about your people or your company that are untrue and inflammatory may not be worth your time. Respond to substantive criticism only when it will result in progress.
2. If the issue is warranted and/or constructive, acknowledge it with your customer
Your customers want to feel heard. A simple, "I'm sorry we disappointed you" can go a long way toward diffusing an emotionally-charged situation and open the door to a respectful, productive conversation with your customer. Remember that your objective is not to admit fault or place blame. Your objective is to respectfully engage your customers and find a way to invite them to share their feelings and their experience so that you can come to a mutually-agreeable resolution.
3. Find out what went wrong
Listen. Make sure you have all the details you need in order to fully understand what the customer experienced and where things went awry. Ask the customer what you can do to make things right.
4. Honor the customer's experience and do what you can to change it
Sometimes people are disappointed through no fault of yours or your employees. For example, a customer may have made incorrect assumptions about what they were going to receive. If there's a misunderstanding, correct it. If your customer has indeed received poor service and you have a solution, offer it. Explain next steps and set clear expectations about how and when the situation will be corrected. If your customer has given you information about a situation you are unaware of and you are not sure how to correct, let the customer know you appreciate the information and that you will give the situation your thoughtful consideration. Set an expectation about if and when you will get back to him/her with a response.
5. Remember, you are not obligated to fix everything
If you want to respond to a customer issue but don't intend to change anything, that's fine. Simply communicate your message to the customer using a friendly, professional tone and provide information that supports your decision. Your objectives are to ensure that:
- your customer feels heard
- you have all the information you can gather about what transpired
- you have done all you can to repair your relationship with the customer
6. Say Thank You
Your customers' comments, however rudely they may be presented, are actually a gift. Think about it: your customers are very busy, just as you are. Still, they took the time to stop what they were doing and offer you feedback that could help you run a better business. That's something to be grateful for. And it will mean something to them when you recognize that fact.