Turn Complaints into Praise

© by marada

During the different stages of your product launch, you may end up ticking off a lot of users in the process.  Initially there may be complaints about missing features or features not working as advertised.  Later, you may experience growing pains with site crashes or not being able to service your users promptly.  How do you deal with users who complain, and turn them into your most loyal users?

  1. Put things into context.  Each user who complains, represents several others who were equally ticked off, but chose not to take the time to tell you.  By resolving the issue and improving your service, you are appeasing several other users you haven’t heard from.
  2. Respond quickly.  Most companies and businesses out there take very long to respond to user complaints.  I’ve left customer service messages using forms at the sites of several major corporations and have been ignored many times.  At the moment, I’m dealing with a refund issue with another corporation that has taken months to process.  Responding quickly will immediately make you stand out from the crowd.
  3. Listen and acknowledge the issue.  This is especially important with phone or face to face conversations.  Let the user do most of the talking.  In most cases they are just happy to have someone hear them out, especially for situations that they realize are out of your control.  They will be much more accommodating if this step is done well.
  4. Resolve the issue.  If the user deserves compensation, and a solution isn’t obvious, be up front and ask them what would make them happy.  In most cases, you will be surprised and how little it would take to appease them.  In the odd case that a solution will cost more than you are willing to pay, appraise the potential benefit of the user returning for return business, and recommending your business to others, versus the cost of the user not returning and worse – spreading a negative review of your business to others.
  5. Follow up.  Depending on the nature of the issue, follow up after a few days to make sure that the customer is indeed happy with the new resolution, and no further issues have come up.  This is the type of service that makes you stand out from the competition, and can even earn you praise for your effective resolution.
  6. Continue engagement.  Even after the situation has been resolved, continue engaging with the user on other aspects of your business.  Find out what parts they like, and what parts they think can be improved.  I’ve found many situations where customers who complained ended up becoming some of my most loyal supporters after that.  They have seen first hand that you care about their business, and are willing to return the favor by helping you succeed after that.

“Man did they screw up.  But boy did they make up for it.”

As long as your company is growing, there will be users contacting you with various issues.  Consider this a good thing.  In fact, if you are not hearing from your users through comments or emails, then perhaps this is a sign that your business has started to peak or is stagnating.

Great Customer Service

I’m a big fan of finding ways to stand out from the crowd.  One way is to do things your competition doesn’t do and raise your customer’s expectations.  If you can do this consistently, you can charge a premium for your product and still have a long line of customers waiting for you.

I encountered such an experience today at an upscale barbecue restaurant here in Taiwan.  This is a restaurant that I’ve been to before.  The food is really good and the decor is really done well.  However what I really noted was the service and attention to detail, from start to finish.  It began when we sat down at the table for dinner with my wife and her parents.  The waiter brought an extra cushion for my wife, who is pregnant, without her asking for one.  My menu was in English while everyone else’s was in Chinese (as I was the only non Chinese person at the table).  Again, this was done without my asking.  He then showed us how to barbecue our meat on the grill in front of us.  He took a sample of meat from each person’s plate to make sure nobody was left out. The meat was also placed on the grill in such a way that there was no cross contamination between different meats.  I thought that was a nice touch.

As this was a six course meal, there were several waiters bringing in dishes at various times throughout the night.  I noticed that in addition to serving the dishes ordered, they had also noted which person had ordered each dish, so the correct dish was placed in front of you each time, without you having to identify it.  By the time dessert was ready to be served, we had made a fine mess at our table from everyone barbecuing their own portions.  However the waiters not only took away the plates, but also quickly wiped and cleaned the table before serving dessert.

I’m normally not a fan of upscale restaurants, as I usually find their portions smaller, leaving me with a dissatisfied feeling when I compare the price of the meal with the size of the portions.  In this case however, I left very full from the meal and very impressed with the service and showmanship showed throughout the meal.  I don’t mind paying extra in this case since I truly feel I got more for my money than I would’ve elsewhere.

Do your customers feel the same way after using your services?