The other day I was speaking with a neighbor who complained about a recent experience at one of our favorite restaurants. My family also enjoys this restaurant for its friendly service and good food. So, I was surprised with my neighbor’s comments. Unfortunately my neighbor experienced poor food quality and a very surly waiter who kept my friends waiting for mildly warm entrees. The experience was so bad that my neighbor and his family have sworn not to go back.
As bad as the experience was, my friend didn’t complain to the manager, so undoubtedly other patrons who had the same waiter left with the same experience – lots of dissatisfied customers.
Hearing this story reminded me of something I read weeks before in Bill Cates’ book, “Get More Referrals Now”. In that well written book he cites the results of a couple studies on customer complaints. For example:
A study conducted by The Strategic Planning Institute of Cambridge PA found that “the average business never hears from 96% of its unhappy clients”.
So, most business owners don’t hear from customers who have a negative experience with their company. Presumably those unhappy customers just leave and never come back with the owner wondering what’s happening to repeat customers.
That same study also found that of the clients who complained, 70% will do business with the company again if the complaint is resolved. These findings are confirmed by the Technical Assistance Research Program Institute, which found that complainers are more likely to continue doing business with the company that upset them than non-complainers.
The message is clear; business owners can’t adopt the attitude that the absence of complaints signals customer satisfaction. As we’ve seen, most customers won’t complain, they just won’t come back. As bad as that is, the even bigger consequence is that while they won’t complain to the owner or manager, they will tell their friends (just as my neighbor did). You may also read about their experience on Yelp or Facebook or other social media vehicle.
The key is to solicit complaints. Yes, as backwards as that may seem you want to receive complaints. Don’t consider complaints as bad. They will help you save customer relationships if you respectfully listen to the complaint, don’t get defensive, and don’t take their complaints personally. Quickly fix the issue with a smile and retain your customer. Hide your head in the sand for fear of hearing complaints and you’ll lose customers.
So, what are you doing to solicit honest feedback from your customers? Are you talking to them about their experience with your company…sincerely engaging with them to learn their thoughts? Sincerity is key. If you are just asking about their experience with little intent of taking action, it will be apparent and will do little to convey the message that you care.
Don’t wait. Take action. Begin soliciting feedback from customers. Don’t be afraid of what you might learn…view their comments as insights that will help you grow your business.