Yaneek Page | Profiting from customer complaints
One of the most remarkable ironies in business is that while the primary goal is to make customers happy consistently, a disgruntled customer whose complaint has been satisfactorily remedied may be more valuable over the long term than a customer who has never made a complaint.
Several studies in customer behaviour have shown that those retained customers will spend more and become fiercely loyal to a business that listens to their complaint, shows empathy, apologises, makes good, and effects changes to maintain an exceptional customer experience in the future.
In one study, businesses that proactively tracked, assessed, and grew their customer-retention rates by as little 5 per cent reported increased profits of between 25 per cent to 90 per cent.
While those increases may seem staggering, their formula for success was very simple: instead of focusing on transactions, retention strategy causes businesses to focus on the customer's needs, experience, and satisfaction. Happy customers keep coming back and may be enticed to spend even more. It gets even better.
The potential to profit from recovered customers increases further because they usually refer new customers. In fact, it is estimated that up to 70 per cent of positive customer service experiences that people share in person or on social media began as negative experiences.
When a customer gives a powerful, unsolicited testimonial on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, for example, it can reach scores, if not thousands, of people within minutes, and their positive word of mouth is 10 times more effective than a typical advertisement.
Case in point The first time I ever took the time to share a positive experience on social media and go the extra mile to rate that hotel on TripAdvisor was because of their superb handling of a bad experience. I'm sharing that review here so as to demonstrate how businesses can effectively apply the principle of customer service recovery.
"Now this is customer service! On Sunday, the maid who cleaned my hotel accidentally threw away my make-up. I realised it was an honest mistake because the tube looks like their bath gel but smaller. I was annoyed but didn't elevate it. The next day, their concierge officer, Dayonna, asked how my stay was going. I told her great, except for the discarded make-up. She was very apologetic! She asked about the brand, colour, type, etc, but I knew it would be impossible to get because it is not sold in stores but exclusively through independent distributors.
"The next day, she sent me a beautiful card with a handwritten apology and a complimentary breakfast certificate. I felt a bit better. The following day, she sent me a box of chocolates with a note that she hoped that I was enjoying my stay. By this time I'm so touched, I've completely got over the make-up mishap. On my last night, I got to my room and was greeted by a gift bag with not one, but two new bottles of my make-up. The make-up I swore she would never be able to find in Washington, DC. I was completely floored. I went to the lobby, gave her a big hug and thanked her for being so wonderful. I still can't believe how they went above and beyond! Dayonna, you are just amazing."
I expanded my review to include an overall high rating of the room, hotel amenities, location, and general service. Hundreds of people read my review on Facebook and TripAdvisor. And, importantly, years later, I'm still a customer and raving fan.
SEVERAL BIG LESSONS
There are several big lessons for Jamaican businesses and organisations. In particular many need to urgently overhaul their treatment of customer service and how they manage disgruntled customers.
A complaint from a customer cannot only provide the gift of learning and improvement, but the promise of loyal customers, positive word of mouth, enhanced brand image, increased referrals, and substantially more income. The key to customer recovery is quick action, effective communication, winning over the customer, and constantly enhancing service quality.
An effective procedure would include an immediate and sincere apology, listening carefully to the customer and understanding the problem, establishing the cause without blaming the customer, offering solutions that will result in the customer gaining more than the value of their perceived loss, implementing the solution that makes them happy, thanking them for their business, and staying constantly engaged in the future so as to manage the relationship closely.