Your business can be a cruel mistress sometimes. Especially during those moments when it seems as though everybody and everything is ganging up against you.
You know that busy week where you don’t have much time, yet everything seems to go wrong? That’s the week you will get a complaint from your biggest customer.
It’s very easy to see it as a bad thing and a sign that your business is getting it wrong. Actually, you should view negative feedback from clients as a good thing. Because complaints are actually opportunities.
They are opportunities to fix problems in your business before they become really damaging – plus a way to find what customers really want from you.
People who complain want to remain as a customer… that’s why they are telling you about the problem, so you can fix it. It’s the people who don’t complain and just cancel who you should be afraid of.
The way you handle a complaint or piece of negative feedback dictates how customers will view your business and also sends an important message to any staff you may have. If they see that you prioritise complaints and ensure that the cause is dealt with swiftly, they will understand that you are serious about your business. They will start to act in that way.
Here are the four most important points to remember when dealing with negative feedback.
Understand the big picture
For every person who complains there will be hundreds who love what you do. Remember that old saying that you can’t please all the people all the time? Very true, especially when you are in business. Complaints are an inevitable way of doing business. In fact if you never get complaints then you are not trying hard enough in your business (or your staff are shielding you from them!).
Encourage an open dialogue with customers
The internet has very quickly changed the kind of conversations that people can have. If you wanted to, you could follow any number of celebrities on the micro-blogging service Twitter. There’s even a chance they might read and respond to the messages you send to them. When anyone can have a two way conversation with a Hollywood star (or at least the illusion of it), why would they want to deal with a business that doesn’t seem to encourage conversation with its customers? You need to be open to talking to your customers on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be expensive or difficult. But you won’t get the feedback you need unless you make it easy for customers to provide it.
Deal with problems quickly
If you get more than one complaint about something specific then you have a problem – whether you think you do or not. Just because you are happy with the way something is run, doesn’t mean your customers are. If they think there is a problem then you have to deal with it. Perception is reality, and the perception of your customers should come above virtually everything else. Once a problem has raised its head then deal with it quickly. And make sure you tell the original complainants what you have done and why. The easiest way to turn a complainant into your biggest fan is to deal with their problem quickly and fairly, and communicate regularly on the progress.
Don’t be afraid
People are going to say bad things about your business. They’re going to be rude about your baby, criticise its staff, say the products are rubbish and offend you. You must not take this personally. It is not about you. It is about your business and the two things are separate. It is simply their opinion about the way you do things. And while you must listen to it and act on it, you must never be afraid of it. Great businesses get passionate customers who want to have their say on the way things are done. Remember, this is an opportunity not a threat!