Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don’t Worry About The Complaints You Get

Zac Martin over at Pigs Don’t Fly has got some balls. His written recently about being a fire starter and wrote an open letter to the editor of B&T in which he raised some issues that he has (as a customer).

A lot of people got stuck into him about his style and a few even supported him in his approach. However, there are a couple of things that those that commented, including Zac, missed.

The first is that Zac is a customer and he is a customer with a gripe or two (ok, he has plenty :). Regardless of whether people believe his approach is correct or not are missing the point. The point is that he is actually rising his issues. The mere fact that he raises the issues shows that he wants to remain a customer.  Huh? Are you still missing the point? Ok, read carefully …

Think of it the other way around. It is the customers that don’t raise their dissatisfaction and problems that B&T (or any business for that matter) should be worried about. It is those customers that choose to cease their patronage without having a discussion that businesses should be worried about.

You might remember a post a few weeks ago a post I wrote about Fitness First – Can You Force Word-of-Mouth? Well I completed their customer feedback form on their website and pointed them to all the constructive criticism that you guys provided. Additionally, I chose to add some personal comments, away from the eyes on this blog, and they were issues that I had directly with Fitness First and I wanted raise them away from public view and comment.

To date I have had no response. WTF?

No wonder customers like Zac take the tone and the approach he did. Maybe being aggressive is the only way to get a response.

Fitness First, you don’t even have to fix everything I raise. Sometimes just acknowledging that you have received customer feedback and concerns, from a valued client, is enough. You certainly seem to “value” me when a payment goes amiss or my contract is up for renewal. You are keen to talk then aren’t you? What the hell is the point of having the feedback form? Do you only get back to those you agree with? Did it go in the round file?

And then when I walk in you expect me to sell my friends names so that they can join? How about looking after me … the one who is giving you money already? The bucket is leaking – spend time fixing the holes instead of pouring more water into it!

Zac and I are customers who have chosen to take the time to articulate our concerns and try and begin a dialogue with the business. The businesses should be embracing us with open arms. I would be happy with a quick phone call saying “Thanks, we have taken it on board. We can’t promise anything but we really do appreciate your feedback”. I would at least feel valued.

For the record, I actually put in a  good word for some great service I get from one particular staff member – it would be nice to know that you have passed it on. Instead, the silence is deafening.

A complaint or feedback isn’t pure criticism. Customers and businesses are in the relationship together. These interactions are a chance for businesses to connect to their customer on a deep level and a chance to listen.

This leads me to the other thing everyone missed about the post …

Businesses should be using this type of feedback to get an understanding of what their customers want. Those that have read the book Raving Fans, by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles, will get this. If you haven't read the book then get onto it.

Businesses need to listen to what their customers want. Sure they may choose to not do business with some customers but there are some massive, massive, not so subtle hints in what Zac has raised. Daily emails in PDF? Sure one commenter said he didn’t mind it but surely you need to ask the customers?! I’d be willing to bet the majority hate it!

How can you deliver a great service if you have no idea what the customers want? Worse still, when they do try and tell you, wrapped up as a complaint, then you don’t even acknowledge them? (That’s a criticism of Fitness First and not B&T).

In these times I would have thought businesses would have this sorted.



Zac Martin said...

Great post Oyster, and thank you for not bagging the shit out of my approach. I'm not even going to bring up the fact that I got a response (and change) and you didn't (hehe)!

Realistically, there's only ever going to be two types of people out there writing about your brand. Your brand evangelists and your brand haters. But both are obviously passionate, and in both mine and your cases we wanted the service to be better because we liked what they were doing!

I think there is so much going on out there that you definitely need to be filtering, but it's just too valuable to not be listening and engaging.

Matt Moore said...

All true Mr Oyster. Some random suggestions:

- Awards given for the best customer complaint of the month. The complaint that led to deepest insight or the biggest improvement (award given to both complainer & staff member that picked it up).

- Investing part of your market research budget in mining customer complaints for new ideas (bit of a cheat this because lots of orgs do this already but not enough).

- Opening up your complaints / customer service process. The content of the complaints are published on a public website daily but with names & identifying details removed.

Any other thoughts?