We’ve all heard the life maxim that ends with “ … you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” In business, as in life, this is true so no matter how hard you work and how well you serve your customers, your small business is bound to get complaints from time to time. But contrary to what many people believe, customer complaints can be good for your small business.
How is that, you ask? Customer complaints are just another form of customer feedback and every successful business – no matter how small or large -- incorporates customer feedback into their ongoing business operations, strategy, and product or service offering. We recommend your small business follow these five steps to receive, process, and respond to customer complaints and to make your business even better.
Step 1: CATEGORIZE
Step 1 is to listen carefully to understand the nature of any complaint so that you can categorize it. Every business is unique and you should come up with your own list of categories so that you can see any emerging patterns and so that you can prioritize (step 2) your actions. Some examples of categories are first-time complaints, serial complaints (and complainers), a complaint from what you consider a loyal customer, a complaint about your product (or service) features, a time-sensitive or urgent issue, a personnel complaint, a complaint based on a misunderstanding, and a complaint from a new customer based on a mismatch of expectations.
Contrary to a popular expression, the customer is not always right. Most customers with complaints will be based on legitimate concerns -- and you should incorporate that valuable feedback to improve your business. But others may not understand your offering or they may have an unrealistic expectation on what it can do for them. This too is valuable feedback as you can revise how you can make your offering better understood (e.g. better customer education). At the same time, your upfront “selling” process should be revised to make clear the benefits of your product - so there aren’t mismatched or overinflated expectations with future clients.
Step 2: PRIORITIZE
You shouldn’t treat all complaints equally so consider which category the complaint falls into and ask yourself these additional questions before taking any action:
· What is the urgency and importance of this complai...more