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Encourage Customers to Complain

Posted by: Today's Tip Contributor on December 17, 2010

TARP has researched customer complaint behavior for over 30 years. More than half the time, your customers will not tell you when you have alienated them but will simply go away. When they feel an employee is incompetent or has treated them poorly, complaining goes down to only 10 percent to 15 percent. Why? Three reasons:

1. Fear that the employee will argue with them or punish them next time.

2. They’re in a hurry and don’t want to take the time.

3. The belief that this is the way you want to do business and nothing will be changed by complaining. Think about the last time you were in a restaurant and two-thirds of the way through a mediocre meal, the host came over and asked how things were going. More than likely you said “fine,” even though you had already decided not to come back.

What should you do to remedy these scenarios?

1. Post signs in your store that say “We can only solve problems we know about—tell us right away!”

2. Print the same message on invoices and contracts.

3. Get your counter staff and sales reps to make eye contact—not making eye contact decreases complaining by 30 percent, our research has shown.
4. Call any customer you have not seen in a month and ask if there is anything wrong. You will be shocked by the results of 10 such calls.

The bottom line: Think of your own behavior and then be aggressive in soliciting complaints!

John Goodman
Arlington, Va.

Reader Comments


December 20, 2010 4:24 PM

The perfect article to go with my day - but you need to add one thing - the willingness to deal with the issue.

I just spent three days trying to place an order with a company that would not take my gift certificate and free shipping on the same order. Huh? One is money, one is a discount. It took 3 days to get a response from customer service and their answer was, well, free shipping day is over "But at least you still have your gift certificate!" Seriously? I'll never buy from this company again. They could have deducted $14 from my order and had my business and my word of mouth to my friends. Now they have an angry journalist who can't believe that any retail business who takes 3 days to respond to a customer issue (especially the week before Christmas), then blows it off, is still in business.

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