In 1997, Steve Jobs returned to Apple. He was responsible for leading the then-dying Apple's resurrection. His first order of business? To step inside the shoes of customers. Almost immediately, Jobs became directly involved in customer service, fielding emails and intervening on customer service calls. When asked why iPhone users were unable to tether their phones to their computers to gain wireless Internet access, Jobs responded, "We agree, and are discussing it with ATT." The feature was eventually implemented.
In addition to reviewing customer complaints via emails, support tickets, call logs, and the like, the most customer-centric organizations leverage surveys as a means of obtaining additional data points. But there’s an art associated with responding to customer complaints. Here are three mantras of success:
It’s easy to react hastily to customer complaints. After all, not all complaints are valid. As a leader, it’s important to come from a place of listening. Take time to step inside your customers’ shoes. Don’t assume that you have all the answers. Use this as an opportunity to learn.
Leaders often underestimate the power of listening. Consider a study performed by researchers at the University of Nottingham with 2 groups of eBay customers who had submitted negative complaints. One group was given an apology that cited a manufacturer delay. The other was offered a small amount of money. Guess which group was more satisfied.
It might surprise you to learn that the apology was more impactful than the cash. 45% of this group decided to withdraw their comments compared to only 23% of those offered compensation.
2. Respond quickly
When it comes to responding to customer complaints, time is of the essence. More than 85% of customers think businesses should respond to customer complaint emails within an hour.
Responding quickly not only appeases customers and reduces the negative fallout of issues, it also lets customers know you care. Even if you can’t completely resolve a complaint in a short time window, you should, at minimum, respond to the customers promptly. Let them know you are looking into the issue and appreciate their patience and their business.
3. Track patterns
Customers can be one of your most powerful sources of learning. Don’t take customer complaints lightly. The most effective companies are laser-focused on tracking patterns and trends in issues. This helps them to better understand the level of severity of problems and take appropriate actions.
Customer retention is the linchpin of successful businesses. Research by Bain & Company has determined that it is six to seven times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. The most successful companies are laser-focused on customer service and the customer experience.
I care deeply about helping leaders and advancing the human resources profession. I have authored two books, The Art of Executive Coaching and Stress-less Leadership, and maintain a regular blog. I am also a leading contributor for The Society For Human Resources Management, Entrepreneur Magazine, and The Association of Talent Development.
As an active animal advocate, I donate 100% of all book proceeds to animal welfare.
The opinions in this article are my own, and do not reflect those of my publishers or employers.