Actioning Customer Feedback: The Secret to Turning Difficult Customers into Loyal Advocates

Difficult customers!

Every business has them, and no one likes to get customer feedback that is challenging to handle. So what’s the secret to turning difficult customers into loyal advocates?

The most important thing to remember is not to think of customers as difficult but merely as angry, frustrated or disappointed with the product or service they bought from us.

You may never have considered this, but customer complaints are actually a gift! Research shows that for every customer who complains, there are 20 or more who don’t complain and just switch to your competitor!

Wouldn’t you prefer to have the chance to retain their loyalty? That’s why you should do everything possible to respond quickly and positively to every complaint.


The Gift of Customer Complaints

When a customer reaches out with a complaint, they are offering you the chance to improve and strengthen your business in several ways:

  1. You get the chance to put things right and make them happy.
  2. You get the chance to stop them churning/leaving for the competition.
  3. You get the chance to delight them so they share their experience with others and build your positive image.

Let’s look at these in more detail, using recent examples to demonstrate best practices:

Correcting Mistakes:

  • Netflix: Netflix is known for actively monitoring customer complaints and using advanced data analytics to identify and correct issues. When they encountered streaming problems in the past, they quickly addressed them by upgrading their infrastructure, leading to improved service quality. This is a great example of exceeding the customer’s expectations, creating even greater delight.
  • Toyota: Toyota has a history of addressing product quality concerns promptly. In the case of the 2010 recall, due to accelerator pedal issues, Toyota swiftly communicated with affected customers, provided fixes, and introduced enhanced safety measures.
  • Samsung: Samsung’s handling of the Galaxy Note 7 battery issue is another prime example. They recalled and replaced the faulty devices, prioritizing customer safety and satisfaction. This transparent and rapid response helped mitigate the impact on their brand reputation.

Customers expect you to put things right. They don’t expect more than that in most cases. So going above and beyond will immediately change a negative into a positive event that the customer will share with their friends and family.


Preventing Churn:

  • Comcast: Comcast has made efforts to reduce customer churn by offering flexible plans and improved customer service. They introduced “Xfinity Mobile” to bundle mobile services with cable and internet, aiming to keep customers within their ecosystem.
  • Adobe: Adobe’s transition to a subscription-based model for Creative Cloud faced initial resistance. However, they addressed customer concerns and objections by continuously improving the platform, leading to higher customer retention rates.
  • Spotify: Spotify uses personalized playlists and recommendations to engage users. By analyzing user data and preferences, they reduce churn by providing a tailored experience that keeps users coming back for more.

This last example shows how a company quite often has the data it needs to better know and, therefore, delight the customer. It’s not about having more data, but rather making better use of the data you collect.


Building a Positive Image:

  • Wegmans: Wegmans, a regional supermarket chain, is known for its exceptional customer service. They actively engage with customers, address concerns, and actively involve themselves in the communities they serve, creating a positive image.
  • Warby Parker: The online eyewear retailer Warby Parker has a strong commitment to social responsibility. They donate a pair of glasses for every pair sold, showcasing their dedication to a socially conscious image that resonates with customers.
  • Patagonia: Patagonia, an outdoor clothing company, promotes sustainability and environmental responsibility. They actively engage in eco-friendly practices, such as repairing their products, which align with their image of being environmentally conscious and customer-focused.

These real-world examples showcase that effective complaint resolution strategies are not limited to just a few companies but can be found in various industries, including retail, hospitality, and technology.


Strategies for Handling Difficult Customers:

When connecting with a “difficult” customer, spend more time listening than speaking, at least at first. Ask questions to clarify the situation, their problem and repeat to be sure you have correctly understood their concern.

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Listen Actively:

  • Zappos: The online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos is known for its exceptional customer service. They actively listen to customer concerns, offer free returns, and have even sent flowers to customers who experienced issues, going above and beyond to address complaints.
  • Apple: Apple is known for actively listening to customer concerns and ensuring that they fully understand the issue before providing solutions. Their customer support representatives are trained to be patient and attentive.
  • Buffer: The social media management platform Buffer has a transparent and proactive approach to addressing customer issues. They openly share their response times and resolution rates, demonstrating their commitment to customer support.
  • Rackspace: Rackspace, a managed cloud computing company, is known for its “Fanatical Support” philosophy. They have a dedicated team that actively engages with customers, promptly resolving technical issues and providing assistance.


Take Prompt Action:

Then put it right. If you can’t solve the issue immediately, say what you will do and by when. Then follow up on your promised actions and make sure the customer is informed.

  • Amazon: Amazon is a prime example of a company that takes swift action to address customer complaints. They are known for their responsive customer service, which includes issuing refunds, replacements, or addressing concerns promptly.
  • TOMS: The shoe and eyewear company TOMS is committed to social responsibility. They actively seek customer feedback and have used it to improve their products and expand their giving programs, demonstrating their dedication to both customers and social impact.
  • JetBlue Airways: JetBlue has a policy of compensating customers for delays or other inconveniences. They actively engage with customers on social media to address concerns and provide resolutions, showcasing their commitment to customer satisfaction.
  • Ritz-Carlton: This luxury hotel chain empowers its employees to resolve customer complaints on the spot, up to a certain financial limit. This proactive approach to addressing customer concerns has earned Ritz-Carlton a reputation for top-notch service.


Seek Further Assistance:

Finally, ask if there is anything else you can do for them. This is also a good time to get constructive customer criticism and feedback. As you have helped them, they are more likely to want to help you. After all, if they decide to stay a customer, they too will benefit from any improvements you make to your products and services. A true win- win.

  • Starbucks: Starbucks often encourages customers to provide feedback and ideas for improving their stores, beverages, and service through their “My Starbucks Idea” platform. This approach not only addresses immediate concerns but also invites constructive criticism and suggestions.
  • Wegmans: Besides their exceptional customer service, Wegmans actively seeks customer feedback through surveys and in-store interactions. They use this feedback to make improvements and enhance the overall shopping experience.
  • Warby Parker: Warby Parker actively listens to customer suggestions and feedback through their online platform. They have used this input to expand their product line and improve their online shopping experience.
  • Buffer: The social media management platform Buffer has a transparent and proactive approach to addressing customer issues. They openly share their response times and resolution rates, demonstrating their commitment to customer support.

By incorporating these strategies and learning from the real-world examples mentioned above, your business can master customer relationship management, effectively handle complaints, and delight “difficult” customers, increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.


The Impact of Effective Complaint Resolution

Effective complaint resolution doesn’t just benefit the customer; it significantly impacts your business’s bottom line. According to a Harvard Business Review study, reducing customer churn by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. Additionally, companies that actively listen to their customers and address their concerns experience a 15% increase in customer satisfaction, as shown in a study by Zendesk.

Consider the example of Netflix, which actively listens to customer complaints and addresses issues promptly. This commitment to resolving customer concerns has improved service quality and contributed to the company’s continued growth and success.


A True Win-Win Scenario

In conclusion, handling “difficult” customers is not a challenge but an opportunity to enhance your business.

You can turn dissatisfied customers into loyal advocates by viewing complaints as gifts and implementing the strategies and examples provided in this article.

In today’s competitive market, mastering customer relationship management is crucial for sustainable success and achieving a true win-win scenario for both you and your customers.

Remember, effective complaint resolution is not limited to specific industries or company sizes; it’s a practice that can benefit any business willing to invest in customer satisfaction and loyalty.

This article summarises just one of the many topics covered in my new book, “The Art and Science of QC2 … Beyond CX”. Download it for free by clicking below. 

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If your CX model is lacking in areas other than those mentioned, please comment below.

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