Some great comments to this book
“Barlow and Moller outline
why a complaining customer can become a company’s most valuable asset
and show you how to win back customers,
drive more deals,
and accumulate testimonials really favorable.
If business success is important to you,
you need to read this book!”- Ron Kaufman,
Author and Founder of UP Your Service!
“For companies that are spending more
and more money researching customer expectations,
this book is a breath of fresh air.
The book could also be titled:
Turning Common Emotions into Profits.”- Paul Clark,
General Manager, Country Energy, Australia
“The Art of Winning Customers provides an excellent vehicle
for explaining how a company can deliver impeccable service
and handle complaints through improved customer relationships,
which ultimately helping to increase sales
as well as improve customer satisfaction.”- Thom Ray,
General Manager of British Telecom
“Things seem too complicated these days.
But Barlow and Moller took a thorny issue
and made it understandable,
not only in the business world,
but also in our everyday lives.
I will never feel destructive complaining again.”- Dr. Russ Volckmann,
Editor and Editor, Integral Leadership Review
“In the convenience store business,
after speed of delivery,
service is the most important.
This book delves into the conditions necessary
for consistent service recovery.”- Lee Barnes,
President of Family Fare Convenience Stores
“This book delivers an inspirational attitude shift
for service industry employees,
a groundbreaking formula for service resumption
in the face of tough complaints,
and a reform of the management system.”- Rick Brandon,
co-author of The Existence of Knowledge
“This book treats service restoration like an art.
The real test of a great brand is its ability to take advantage
of opportunities to form new customer relationships.
Through a careful blend of analysis, business creativity,
and real-world examples,
these pages will convince you that complaints really are gifts.”- Mike English,
Vice President of Customer Contact Center,
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc.
“The concept in this book is an attitude we adopted
to complement our brand promise
at the Royal Plaza in Scotts, Singapore.
We have planted the seeds
of its importance in all of our employees
so that they are truly grateful for customer feedback,
whether favorable or unfavorable.”- Patrick Garcia Fiat,
General Manager, Royal Plaza, Scotts, Singapore
“This book is very profound.
It goes back to the fundamentals that are driving our industry.
The authors take you through the process
from mentioning a bad customer experience
to turning that guest into a loyal customer.
The title of this book could not have been more correct.”- Rich Hicks,
Director of Tin Star Restaurant
“We own one of the most majestic places in the world:
the Sky Walk in Grand Canyon West.
And we still get complaints.
This book can help any organization achieve its customer experience goals.
This concept works very well in many different cultures.
Today, it becomes very important
to create a truly international character in the service
that delivers the customer experience.”- Waylon Honga, CEO, Grand Canyon West
“This book is for any manager
that truly satisfied customers present the best opportunities
to acquire more customers.
The art of winning customers is a powerful tool
that should be shared with all employees across the company.”- Andy Jorishie,
Vice President of The Zimmerman Agency
“This book is a work of art.
I would recommend to anyone looking for perfection
and learning about customer service in general
and complaint handling in particular.”- Omran Al Shansi,
Complaints Handling Manager,
Emirates Telecommunications Corp.
“This is a magical book with practical tools
and techniques to ensure a delightful customer experience
and handle even the most challenging complaints from them.
It includes a lot of suggestions
for providing impeccable customer service
even in the most difficult situations.
These tools are really effective, practical.”- Michael Krumpak,
former Director of the Training and Development Subcommittee,
U.S. House of Representatives
“The concept of ‘A Complaint is a Gift’ points to a long-term difference.
We believe that, as a network of banks,
we can correct a large number of our flaws from customer feedback.
We will certainly become more unique in the way we serve our customers.
is a key element of our business strategy.” – Andrey Litvinov,
Vice President, Life Financial Group, Russia
“It is interesting that the topic of ‘complaint’ is finally brought up and discussed in depth.
Our business, which is based on building relationships,
has greatly benefited
from the insights provided in this book.”- Cliff Miller, Owner M. J. Christensen Diamonds
“The ‘Complaint is a Gift’ philosophy empowers our customer service reps
to improve and strengthen customer relationships.
This unique communication approach
to defect services has been very beneficial to our organization,
helping to build stronger and more productive teams.”- Peta Peter,
Director of Education and Training,
Amway Australia and New Zealand.
“This book is an invaluable component of our toolkit
for creating a distinct customer service culture.
It focuses on taking in customer complaints
to refine service and bring customers back,
rather than seeing complaints as bad things to avoid.”- Muriel Roake,
Brand and Organizational Development Manager, Air New Zealand
“I have always been a supporter of the Janelle
and Claus philosophy that complains is a gift in the field over the years.
Communication channels and the smoothness of how complaints are handled,
through blogs and online chat rooms,
have facilitated even the more essential needs of efficient
and fast complaint handling. quickly.”- Nigel Roberts,
Executive Vice President,
The Langham Hotels & Resorts
“Customer service is a paradox:
the more interactions a business has with its customers,
the more ‘negative’ feedback they get,
but at the same time more opportunities to create ‘positive’ things. pole’.
Many of the elements in the book have been used by Boyd Gaming
and proved to be useful as we continue
to build on our ability to deliver
and monitor customer service and proactive feedback programs.”- Brian Shultz,
Vice President of Marketing,
Midwest and South Region,
Boyd Gaming Corp.
“This is a book in the field of psychology,
the psychology of customers who still care to complain,
the psychology of organizations confident enough
to take complaints and deal with them,
and the psychology of of people in the organization
as well as varying degrees of confidence in handling complaints.”- Sanjay Tiwari,
Sales and Customer Service Manager, KLM Cargo USA
“If you want to know what really works in complaint management,
check out this book.
It includes practical examples and the latest thinking on the subject.
It is rare to find such a book for those involved in the activity handle customer complaints
and pull out valuable academic research.”- Jochen Wirtz, Professor,
National University of Singapore, co-author of Service Marketing:
People, Technology, Strategy
“This fresh approach to service restoration and customer loyalty has become part of the buzzwords in the Butterfield Bank office.
Janelle and Claus provide the food for ideas,
teachable and entertaining examples,
and easy-to-use guides to put their philosophy into practice.”- Lori Baker-Lloyd,
Vice President of Human Resources
and Organizational Development,
N. T. Butterfield & Son Bank, Bermuda
I dedicate this book to Confucius, who wisely pointed out:
“He who commits a mistake and does not know how to correct it, commits it again.”
Confucius did not know about the complaints of customers today,
but he easily explained why it is the complaining customers who give us gifts.
The title A Complaint Is a Gift can be misleading at first
because it is ostensibly just a book on the subject
of how to handle complaints.
And while every page of the book deals with complaints,
this book is really about a much broader
and more important topic:
how to provide excellent service.
Everyone knows that providing excellent service is vital,
but only a handful of companies do this well.
Why? The concept of excellent service is very simple,
but in practice it is very difficult.
This book can be used as a guide
to taking the first step in building an organization
that is dedicated to providing customers with excellent service.
Think of the last time you complained
to a company about a bad experience.
Now think about the effect your loyalty has on that company
after the way they handled (or didn’t) your complaint.
Every day, millions of complaints are sent
to companies around the world;
While most companies try to avoid complaints,
this book will show you that each complaint
is actually a great opportunity
to increase the value of your company.
At Zappos.com, our goal is to provide excellent customer service.
We believe that the best way to achieve this goal
is to make a customer-centric company culture the number one priority in everything.
We believe that when we successfully build that culture,
most of the other things needed
to provide excellent service will automatically emerge in the process.
If you can turn your company into a “complaint-friendly” organization
by following the steps outlined in this book,
then you will be one of the most profitable companies in the world ability
to provide excellent service.
This is not an easy path,
nor does it happen overnight,
it happens step by step.
Reading this book is one of the best first steps you can take.
Tony Hsieh CEO, zappos.com
Chapter 1: Introduction
Part 1: When Customers Voice
It’s been more than 10 years since the first edition
of The Art of Winning Customers was published.
We are embarrassed to admit
that we naively believed that poorly handled complaints were a thing of the past,
thanks to the wide circulation of the first edition.
We’ve heard some surprising examples,
like a medical products company in Kiev,
Ukraine that completely reorganized its approach
to complaints handling based solely on the content of the complaint.
Russian version of this book.
With similar examples from around the world,
we thought we’d stop talking about complaining soon,
even though it’s a fun topic to talk about.
Indeed, stories of poorly handled complaints have garnered a lot of attention,
amazement, and interesting expressions from our audience.
We thought everyone understood that every complaint is a gift.
But that didn’t happen.
In 2006, in a survey of 3,200 European and American consumers,
86% responded that “their trust in companies has declined over the past five years.”
In 2007, RightNow Technologies reported
that after experiencing a poor service:
80% of American adults have decided never to return
to that company to make a purchase.
74% raised a complaint and told it to others.
47% of customers yell or swear.
29% said they had a headache,
felt tightness in their chest, or cried.
13% seek to fight the company when posting negative comments
or comments on websites/blogs.
Finally, a Gallup Institute poll conducted
by the Office of Consumer Complaints conducted from August 22 to September 8,
2007 found that approximately 18% of American adults say
that Their confidence in businesses had dropped in the previous year.
However, 93% of those surveyed said that a company’s reputation
for honesty and fairness is very important to them.
The report concludes
that if a company doesn’t live up to its promises (the source of all complaints),
customers will go elsewhere.
It’s not a bright picture.
While the ideas from this book have influenced many people,
companies continue to make mistakes,
and customers continue to complain.
Service providers often blame customers
for the errors they complain about,
or require customers to prove the facts.
In many cases, it took them so long
to respond that the complainant himself
no longer remembers what he
or she complained to the company about.
Then customers are often forced to talk to electronic sound systems.
However, conversations like these are better
than face-to-face contact in many cases.
We will not resort to customer wait time statistics
when they want to connect a phone
to a department to handle a complaint.
Then when they are directly dealing
with a someone only knows that he
or she is living in a country in reverse time zone
and is investigating the problem through the description.
Many customers are so frustrated
with this way of communication
that by the time they get
to the person in charge they’re often angry
and are therefore immediately branded as a bully,
even though they just need an answer to a simple question.
You can make ten perfect deals with customers,
but it only takes one transaction with a slight flaw
to attract the attention of so many people.
This fact shows that we must focus on what
we can learn from unhappy customers.
Many service providers see complaints as something to avoid,
this is evident in the fact that many companies continue
to reward management teams for their ability
to reduce the number of complaints.
Surveys conducted around the world repeatedly prove
that the companies
with the highest customer service in the industry are the most profitable.
In fact, many large companies have developed sophisticated technological approaches
to respond to complaints more effectively.
And many companies have trained their employees in the best ways
to respond to the most demanding customers.
Every year, many new service providers enter the world market,
and at the same time many new complaints are raised by consumers.
Excited and frustrated managers continue
to deceive themselves into thinking
that the best way
to be perfect is to eliminate all the problems
that can generate customer complaints.
Now, 12 years after the first publication of The Art of Winning Customers,
more and more complaints are being expressed publicly on the Internet in a harsher,
more pressing tone.
When dealing with difficult customer complaints,
unfortunately, many employees treat their customers’ uncontrolled behaviors
as if they were personally directed at them,
and as a result they have inappropriate personal defense responses
to them with its customers.
Is it surprising that most call centers are struggling to keep staff,
unless they offer some of the highest salaries in the area?
Such frequent and rapid loss of people requires the company
to constantly recruit new employees
without adequate training in skills.
As a result, many customer service centers do not have staff members
who know how to handle complaints effectively.
Academic research on complaint handling has also failed
to reveal shocking information
since we surveyed the research for the first edition.
However, more and more fine-tuning from
what happens in complaint handling has
also emerged steadily over the past 10 years.
For example, many studies have been conducted on differences in complaint patterns
between different national groups.
Deeper knowledge of consumer behavior
has opened up additional areas for research.
Here is our conclusion after reading hundreds of research reports:
The more we know about service recovery,
the deeper our understanding becomes.
The more knowledgeable we are,
the more we need to know
how to achieve the desired results by restoring customer service.
The more we know,
the more often we have to practice
to know what works in particular situations.
While the specific facts may have changed,
the results of studies conducted from the 1960s to the 1990s continued
to hold true well into the 2000s.
Indeed, it’s scary to think that a complete understanding
A whole new approach to complaints has popped up out of the blue,
which calls for a whole new approach
to complaint handling.
In short, the concept of Every Complaint as a Gift remains
as true today as it was 10 years ago.
Complaints will never go away,
and organizations and their employees need
to adopt a new strategy that allows them
to restore customer trust
and loyalty after an incident.
Part 2: Change mindset
What has changed is that more and more organizations
are moving in this direction
and have gained a deeper understanding of the importance
of effective complaint handling.
These organizations understand very well
the cost of losing both customers
and employees when their dissatisfaction
and anger are not handled skillfully.
Many organizations recognize that effective service restoration
is a crucial part of creating strong brands.
In 2004, the book Branded Customer Service by Janelle Barlow
and Paul Stewart examined the importance
of brands handling complaints effectively
customers are willing to forgive Forgiving brands
that don’t live up to their promises at first,
as long as brand reps respond to customers effectively,
deliver on their original promise,
and show the problem is improving benevolent.
Some customers will accept major flaws if the service provider is honest,
considerate and willing to help them.
If your employees maintain an attitude that feedback is one of the best ways
to communicate with customers,
they’re on the right track to building emotional value with customers.
This issue is covered in more detail in the book Emotional Value,
which Janelle co-authored.
Saying thank you
when receiving a negative feedback has a powerful effect
sometimes beyond your imagination.
the strategy that follows the thank you is even more meaningful.
Our attitude when receiving
and handling customer complaints,
especially when we consider “every complaint is a gift”,
is a very powerful weapon
to restore service and regain trust of customer.
Before we show you how to organize this new edition,
let’s start the story off
with a surprising example of complaint handling at Family Fare,
a chain of convenience stores franchise business in North Carolina.
Family Fare defines its goal
as being the best customer service provider in convenience stores in America.
They invest a fair amount of money
to train store owners
and store managers about the brand of service they want
to provide and how to handle complaints,
company has only such a simple promise
and has always focused all its resources on fulfilling that promise perfectly.
Family Fare knows that they can’t compete
with US hypermarkets that specialize in weekend shopping,
but they’re also not a place that provides essential goods
and oppresses customers with high price.
However, Family Fare stores are always clean and bright,
and prices are often listed like supermarkets.
Most Family Fare customers are familiar
with the store managers
(who are the likeliest and genuine people you’ll ever meet) and like them.
They really are a close-knit community.
General Manager Lee Barnes “lives and breathes” with customer service.
Complaints addressed to Family Fare will come directly to him
and he will personally respond to the customer.
The complaints received, he said,
were “warning words from the heart.”
Once, while in a car,
Barnes received a complaint (from his Black Berry)
from a customer saying
that she was denied entry into the lottery
for an Xbox console because her home address not near Family Fare store.
She writes that she has a rental property near one of the stores
and that her military husband buys gas there.
She was furious and vowed never to shop at Family Fare again,
and many families she knew would follow suit.
“It is a pity that you ignore customers
who work near your location
even if they do not live nearby.
There are simply too many other places
for us to buy gas and soda.
Bye. Next time, maybe you should hire someone
with promotion experience to run future campaigns.”
Oh, how stinging her words were!
Barnes immediately sent a response from his BlackBerry,
thanking her for contacting him and assuring him
that he would consider her entry into the sweepstakes.
It turned out that the commands at the bottom
of the website automatically removed people in her situation
from the competition.
She was not the only one experiencing this incident,
but the only one to voice complaints.
After returning to the office,
Barnes sent the client a longer message,
thanking her for letting him know about the situation,
and that he had personally signed her up for the contest.
Her response to the second letter was much softer in tone.
In the third exchange,
the complaining customer wrote about her life and her children.
“Yes, because you have been so kind to me,
I will not boycott your store anymore.”
In a two-page email,
the woman confided that her husband’s commander was killed the morning
she filed her first complaint.
She has one adopted child and recently adopted two more,
one born to an addicted mother.
Their eldest son’s birthday is coming up and he wants an Xbox,
but they can’t afford it
because they live off military pay.
“So when I saw your contest,
I thought I might be lucky enough
to win an Xbox for Jess,
but my God, I couldn’t enter,” she said.
By this time, Barnes
and his guest had already addressed each other intimately
by their first names.
He was touched and decided to give Jessie an Xbox,
whether her mother won or not.
The web designer for the company also gave the boy a game disc
that came with his Xbox because of his negligence
The client’s follow-up letter thoroughly explained
that she was not asking for sympathy or charity.
In fact, she was confused by
what she had originally written.
“I don’t expect you to send us a gaming system,” she said.
I only feel comfortable
when the company really cares,
listens and responds to a customer’s complaint.”
Barnes replied that he had not heard a single request
for sympathy and that it was a gift for Jessie
and her brother to express gratitude
for her taking the time
to explain the matter to the site so they can fix it.
Two weeks later,
Jessie received the Xbox.
The letters of thanks from the mother
and her children are touching
and it is hard to hold back the tears.
Most complaints don’t create such opportunities
for you to show how good you are.
However, when they happen like this,
you should receive them and handle them
with the utmost respect
because everyone involved benefits.
Don’t be afraid that people will compete with each other
to write desperate letters of complaint to get a free Xbox
because you will surely find out what is true.
Metaphor – Complaints are gifts
the company does not exist.
Today, phrases like total customer service,
customer driven marketplace,
customer satisfaction metrics,
customer centric culture,
customer centric sales customer service,
core and peripheral customer service,
internal and external customers,
and “hard” or “hard” customer relationships software” often appears in the words
of business people – especially consultants.
Service recovery courses
(on how to turn unhappy customers into loyal customers)
are often the most popular seminars
around the world in recent times.
In the first edition,
we conducted a computer search of Dialog for articles from 1981
that included customer complaints in academic journals
and discovered a dramatic increase in customer complaints,
the sheer number of such articles.
Since then, academic interest in the subject of complaints
and service restoration has steadily increased,
as shown in the chart below.
And to take advantage of the Internet,
we decided to look at how many customer complaint items are listed
by Google every year during the same time period.
The results are presented below:
Many people remember that after 9/11/2001,
complaining seemed to be considered impolite.
But since 2007, the number of complaints has increased dramatically,
perhaps in part due to the explosion of blogs.
The concept of a customer has expanded over the past 25 years.
Customer does not just mean the payers,
but anyone who benefits from a product or service,
including hospital patients,
school students, and vehicle users. public transport…
It also means internal customers of the organization,
such as colleagues and superiors.
Although some people don’t like to call friends
and family members customers,
many ideas applies to personal relationships with clients.
We will discuss some of these ideas in the next chapters.
Peter Drucker once said that our customers are the reason
we stay in business.
But we often forget this.
Many companies have an artistic way
of conveying the “we live for the customer” message,
but believe that all they need to do is issue orders on the subject.
In our service consulting roles,
we’ve come across a lot of managers
who don’t understand that it’s not enough
to ask employees to behave a certain way.
In the US in 1920, the service sector accounted
for 53% of non-farm workers,
by 1960 this share had jumped to 62%;
In 2000, this number increased to 81%.
This pattern is consistent across all developed economies in the world.
In fact, most businesses see complaints
as evidence of failure on their part
that they don’t want to admit,
or as reinforcement of their suspicions
that customers are looking for something,
that costs nothing.
However, while some companies tend to refuse
to accept customer complaints,
many others are eager to get rid of them.
Complaints are one of the most direct
and effective ways for customers to tell a business
that they can always improve their service.
And if this improvement does not take place,
the customer will deal with another company
and the customer’s unhappy attitude will create great damage
to the company and negatively impact the brand image.
The metaphor we use in this book
is the metaphor Complaining as a Gift.
Complaints are a feedback mechanism
that can help organizations quickly
and inexpensively transform a product,
or market focus to meet the needs of their customers,
the ultimate people
to pay for goods or services.
It is time for all organizations to think of complaint handling as a strategic tool,
an opportunity to learn something about a product
or service that they may not have known,
and see it as an effective marketing asset,
rather than as a nuisance, an expense,
or an unpleasant pain.
Customer complaints provide one of the most basic
and direct ways to communicate
After all, how many consumers bother to pick up the phone just
to talk to a company if they don’t have a problem?
In fact, we often have to pay customers extra money
to fill out our surveys!
So, we better be prepared to listen to them.
This book is useful to those
who come in contact with customers on a daily basis,
who want to benefit from customer feedback,
and who have the responsibility of retaining unhappy customers
and turning them into new customers with loyal customers.
To do this, you need to have a radical change in attitude towards this issue.
If your company improves its complaint handling practices
and begins to view complaints as gifts,
you’ve opened up clearer channels
of communication for customers.
Our goal is to help you realize how changing
the way you view customer complaints can be the first step to improving
and truly expanding your business.
Chapter 3: How is this book presented?
The book is divided into three parts:
The first part, “Complaints – A Lifesaver for Customers”,
looks at strategies that can help us maintain a positive attitude
towards complaining customers.
This section establishes the value of listening to the customer.
The role of complaint handling as a strategic tool
for generating additional business will be introduced here.
We’ll also look at why most unhappy customers rarely complain.
And find out what’s on their mind
when customers complain based on what they say, do,
and expect when they’re unhappy.
The second part, “Applying the Complaint Is a Gift Strategy,”
focuses on how to handle complaints.
We’ll look at an eight-step gift recipe
for keeping language, interactions,
and actions consistent with the belief that a complaint is a gift.
When this book was first published,
the Web was a forum that had only just begun
to emerge for frustrated customers.
Remember that it wasn’t until 1995
that most people started using the Internet.
In the past 10 years,
what used to be whispers has now become a worldwide reverberation.
Fortunately, we are not without a way
to fend off complaints online.
Therefore, we will look at how organizations can use the Web
in a way that benefits them.
The first edition of this book has a section titled
“How to Make Your Organization Complaint Ready”.
As this book has been expanded,
we decided to include discussion of this topic on the TMI US Web site (www.tmius.com).
Here you will find downloadable articles and comments.
We regularly update
(1) how to balance service restoration with your brand’s position,
(2) how to evaluate your policies and systems to be open to complaints,
and ( 3) how to develop and maintain a culture that is open to complaints.
On our Web site,
you’ll also find implementations
to make your organization more customer-centric
by focusing on complaint handling.
Due to the considerable amount of feedback
we received from readers of the first edition,
we decided to add a third section:
“Give and Take – The Personal Side of Complaints.”
Many people have told us that applying the gift formula
to their marriage has really saved them.
One of the best ways to discover what customers want is
to listen to their complaints.
And one of the best ways to improve a personal relationship is to notice
when they are frustrated and respond in a way that can resolve the conflict.
Quick exchanges, with open channels
for feedback from friends,
colleagues, and family members,
geared toward addressing other people’s discomforts can keep relationships harmonious
and productive make them stronger.
Or maybe they’ll attack us on MySpac-. Gordon Bethune,
CEO of Continental Airlines until 2004, said:
“You can’t treat your girlfriend as a gift from the sky,
and you can’t do the same to your customers.
If you do, there’s a very good chance that someone else
will receive your ‘gift from the sky’.
At the end of each chapter are a number of questions that discuss complaints
and what your organization can do to improve its service.
These questions can be used in staff meetings
to stimulate discussion and understanding of customer complaints,
or as part of training efforts to improve complaint handling.
Real cases of organizations that are successful in managing
and handling customer complaints will also be presented in the book.
We listened to our readers and expanded the examples
to other areas rather than focusing on the aviation industry,
which is often the most criticized.
Wally Bock, a popular blogger, says:
“The ideas that almost certainly work are best practices
from other companies in the industry.
But breakthrough ideas often come from other industries,
from an industry that can solve problems that are common,
but new to you.”
All of our examples are very real.
If we are wrong about a certain detail,
we sincerely apologize in advance.
In most cases, when the experience is negative,
we don’t include the company’s name unless they no longer exist
or the complaint is part of publicly available information.
This is a careful decision.
Every company can make mistakes at some point.
We also don’t want you to think that a company is bad just
because someone is complaining about them.
Finally, this book contains a lot of research data
that has been compiled.
You’ll quickly notice that there’s a lot of bias in the complaint literature,
but all the research points in one direction:
unhappy customers don’t usually complain,
and when they do,
they don’t feedback to them is often poorly handled
and not managed appropriately.
If we can treat complaints as gifts,
we must make major changes in both thinking and acting.
The good news is that there are plenty of opportunities for all organizations
to make major improvements in the way they handle complaints.
Part 1: Customers complaints
A. Lifeline for customers
When customers are not satisfied with a product or service,
they usually show it in two ways:
either expressing their opinion,
or quietly walking away.
If they walk away,
it means they didn’t give us a chance to explain
or fix the problem that made them unhappy.
When customers complain they still want to talk
to us and give us a chance to keep them.
In today’s world where almost everything is connected to the Internet,
word-of-mouth rumors no longer linger at a simple dinner table,
they have become the hot topic of discussion
at parties to thousands of customers.
So, even though we don’t like receiving negative feedback,
it’s the customers who complain directly
to us who are giving us a gift.
Indeed, if we realize that every complaint is a gift,
we will learn much from difficult situations.
At that time, for us, customer complaints are always one of the most available sources
of market and consumer information,
but are underutilized;
they will be one of the bases
for us to conduct programs
to improve the quality of our products and services.
Indeed, those are not small gifts!
To better understand complaining customers,
Part I of this book delves into their psychoanalysis.
When we understand them,
we easily accept them.
We need to actively accept complaints and even customers
who have to say sometimes very difficult;
We must allow them to respond directly
and directly instead of talking behind our backs.
B. Strategy for viewing “every complaint is a gift”
It’s not easy hearing customers complain all day long.
The “mood” confession on the Internet
of a customer service employee below
is not very different from many emotions we have heard directly:
Customers are constantly complaining.
They complain 90% of the time just
because they had a bad day and need to take it all out on someone.
I work for a cell phone network company
and I get so many complaints that I want to get sick…
My job is to help customers when they need it
but every tolerance has a limit term.
I’m tired of complaints.
No matter how hard we tried, they still weren’t satisfied.
Once a customer has a nasty attitude from the first minute,
it’s very difficult to stay calm
when they keep scolding you lashing out at you
and accusing you of being rude to them.
C. Customer service officer
Would you like to see a slightly different scenario?
Imagine a friend with a lovely gift in hand coming
to your birthday party.
The first thing you say after greeting the person is probably gratitude:
“Thank you. Thank you for coming
and thank you for the cute gift.”
Both your language
and your gestures convey the joy of seeing an old friend
and receiving a gift.
What happens if you open your present and see a CD
that was purchased specifically for you?
What will you say?
“Oh, I really like it.
I’ve wanted this CD for a long time.
He’s really attentive.
How do you know I like this singer?
Every time I listen to this CD,
I will think of you.”
Yes, that might be a bit wordy,
but that’s generally how people express emotions.
Now, imagine a customer calls you to complain.
“My name is Chris Cooper.
His cell phone network never provided a decent service.
I kept crashing,
while your ads kept saying
that wherever we were in the country,
we could still hear it.
And yet, the first month’s bill charged for calls I never made!
But I’m not surprised,
because your company’s signal is so bad,
of course you can’t calculate the exact rate!”
In that situation, few people can say,
“Thank you for calling and letting us know about this.
He was really attentive.
We are very grateful for your comments.”
Yet when we receive birthday gifts,
we do not hesitate to say thank you immediately.
Why? That’s because we are cared for by a friend
who takes the time to learn and brings us joy,
a special gift.
What about those complaining customers?
Are they your friends,
or are they your enemies?
What are they trying to do
and what gift are they giving us?
Complaining is a customer giving us the opportunity
to find out what their problem is so we can help them
and encourage them to continue buying our products
or using our services.
It’s like they gave us an article on their blog:
“Chance to Survive:
Listen to Me and You’ll Keep Your Business”.
So please don’t say:
“Get out of here! I already have this singer’s CD
and I don’t want another one. I’m busy!”.
When faced with people like the customer
who complains about intermittently dropped calls
and repeated billing errors,
many customer service reps often erect a barricade
of questions like this asked:
“What is your name?
How is it spelled?
Your phone number? Your home address?
When did you start using the service?
What is the product serial number on your phone?
(If you don’t have that number on hand,
you can find it underneath your phone.
Those are tiny numbers that you might need a magnifying glass to read.)
bill of lading in front of you?
What is its serial number?
How many online orders do you have?
What is your Purchasing Order Number (PO Nr)?
When was the last payment?”.
Maybe they’ll blame the billing system
with a sigh and say,
“We’ve received a lot of complaints about the wrong billing.”
They may even attack their own company saying,
“Dropped calls like that happen a lot at our place.
It’s also strange that the advertisements claim
that our company’s service quality is the best.
If that were true,
he would certainly be suspicious of all other cell phone network companies as well.”
With luck, these customers will receive an apology
from more experienced staff.
But there are very few customer service reps who say thank you right away.
Maybe they’ll thank you at the end of the talk,
when you’ve probably been so infuriated
that the thank you has become meaningless.
What if someone gives you a birthday CD
and you respond
with a series of questions:
“Where did you buy it?
Do you pay by cash or by credit card?
Do you pay full price or buy at a discount
– or on eBay? Come on, let’s be honest.
How many songs are there?
You heard it and downloaded it to your iPod, right?
Why did you give it to me
when you’ve never heard of it yourself?
Just based on some crappy iTunes bestsellers,
you want me to spend my time listening to this crap?”.
You would never behave so rudely
with someone who is giving you a present,
unless you really have a problem with communication.
Surely you will say “Thank you!” honestly
– whether you already have that CD,
or most of the songs on it,
you don’t like.
The customer service staff’s perception has a profound effect on
what happens during a customer interaction,
when a customer raises a complaint or asks for help.
In a study on the impact of employees’ sense of service
in handling customer complaints,
University of Alabama researchers questioned
how service agents themselves affect customer service
to the use of Self-Service Technology (SST).
Those who think SST helps them do their jobs better
always take the time
to teach customers how to use SST tools.
Meanwhile, employees who consider SST to be a burden
and not a utility for anyone will not hesitate to step in
and operate the tools themselves on behalf of the customer.
As a result,
their clients don’t have the opportunity to educate themselves
and ensure that after they leave,
they will face the same difficulties again.
Obviously awareness is important,
even though service staff may not be aware of
the impact their attitudes have on their own behavior.
A survey of retail banks in Europe found that there is a direct link
between how managers think about customer complaints
and how customers behave when they complain.
In other words, customers may perceive an organization
as always treating complaints as a gift,
or just perceive it as an undesirable
but still welcome thing.
A detailed study of two Swedish banks also supports this idea.
Studies show that in small businesses,
managers achieve success
because they have taken complaint handling
as the main tool in creating satisfaction
for customers by loyal goods.
So, how can we internalize the idea that complaint is a gift?
First start by figuring out what a complaint is.
D. What is a complaint?
In the simplest sense,
a complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction about unmet expectations.
But more importantly,
it is an opportunity
for an organization to reconnect
with its customers
by revising a service or dealing
with a broken product.
Complaints, then, are gifts that customers give to an organization.
Everyone benefits from carefully opening these gifts
and seeing what’s inside.
On the surface, customers might just complain
that the jeans they just bought shrunk
or the color was washed out,
ruining a whole bunch of their white clothes.
But more deeply,
the customer is giving the store a chance to respond
so they will continue to buy more clothes from that store.
On the surface, customers only complain that the vacuum cleaner
they just bought doesn’t meet their needs.
they’re trying to see
how the retailer will get the vacuum cleaner back.
On the surface, customers just said they had to wait three
and a half hours for someone
to install their expensive computer.
they’re talking about the concern
that they’ve made a bad buying decision.
Or, another worry would arise in them about
whether it would still run well for many years.
On the surface,
customers might complain to the grocer
that the turkey they bought didn’t have entrails and head,
but it wasn’t until Thanksgiving that they found out. ,
and at that time the shop was closed for a holiday.
Deep down, customers are wondering
if the grocer will take their word
for it and how it will make up for the disappointment.
On the surface, a customer assures an insurance agent
that they have called the insurance company
to ask a simple question,
and yet after several days of waiting they
still have not received a response.
But more deeply,
customers are warning that they will consider a rival company
when their policy is due to renew.
In your opinion,
do most customer service reps just hear complaints
or do they really understand the underlying messages?
We have to say that,
too many of them only hear sentences from the surface.
(“You probably won’t believe what I hear from a client!
Their turkey has no entrails and head,
legs, and wings. I said, ‘Let me live with it.’
How much people are starving out there,
and yet here they are complaining
because their ten-pound turkey has no heart!)
As a result, those complaints were handled poorly,
lack of empathy, and of course they lose customers.
When businesses listen to customers
with a more open attitude
and based on more flexible perspectives,
they will perceive complaints as a gift.
most of us don’t like to hear complaints,
and when we hear from our customers,
we often erect huge psychological barriers.
Even, as we will discuss later,
many customers are not willing to give us their complaints,
but simply switch to another supplier.
E. Why do we not like hearing complaints?
On the surface,
everyone seems to understand
why complaints are so often shunned.
Who likes to hear other people say
they don’t like something about them?
But once someone says it,
something is wrong on our part.
Complaining is akin to blaming,
or what psychologists call negative attribution.
When something happens in a positive way,
people tend to attribute it
to themselves or receive praise for their own behavior.
when a customer buys a shirt,
if she is praised by many people,
she may think she was wise to choose that shirt,
even though it is the salesperson
who finds the shirt
and introduced it to her.
However, things would be very different if something bad happened.
Most of us blame other individuals or systems
when things don’t go well.
Indeed, according to research by Saint Louis University,
customers tend to blame specific businesses
or specific individuals.
This means that employees,
especially those who directly meet or talk to customers,
will be blamed as soon as there is a product
or a service that does not bring the expected utility.
On the staff side, they behave roughly the same way
When receiving complaints,
they also tend to blame the customer.
When customers have socially unacceptable attitudes
(such as yelling or berating),
they almost always exhibit a negative attitude toward the customer.
With such a negative view of the situation,
they are not willing to return the product to the customer,
or if so,
they do not make the exchange of the product comfortable
for both parties.
However, many employees understand
that blaming the customer is not the right behavior
for customer appreciation or promotion,
so they hide their feelings
and try to explain it with easy arguments.
Accept it rather than find out
why things are broken.
But most commonly, employees often blame the business,
the policies or the company’s management structure.
Employees can tell customers,
“I really want to help you,
but unfortunately I can’t do more
because it’s our company policy…”
or “I give up!
I will be criticized if I do this for you.
I sincerely apologize to you.”
blaming the company’s policies doesn’t do any good on customers
because it doesn’t help them solve the problem,
nor does it prevent customers
from continuing to annoy employees.
Even when employees make it clear
that they themselves do not agree with company policies,
factors that prevent them from satisfying customers,
most customers cannot distinguish
what is their behavior employees
and what is company policy.
Fritz Heider, the father of modern attribution theory,
notes that most of us attribute the blame to individuals rather
than circumstances related to faulty products or services.
For example, if a service provider says,
“I know this sounds weird, but I need…”,
the customer might think,
“If you already know this is weird, why would you?
require this information?”.
Most service delivery processes today are complex,
and mistakes are inevitable for many businesses or individuals.
This means that service providers
need to give a thorough explanation of what happened,
not speak as if they are intentionally blaming someone else.
For example: “I take responsibility for this,
even though there are a few other people involved.
We need to find out what happened,
then I can help you with it.”
Wegmans Food Market,
a well-known chain of stores
in the upper northeastern United States,
operates under the commitment
of “You get the best from us every day”,
which means “[we] ] will listen to your complaints
so [we] can make things even better.”
The Wegmans store chain was founded in 1916
and has received more than 30 major awards
for its originality, quality customer service
and for “changing the way we shop”.
They just received the 2007 Food Network Award
for Best Department Store.”
And Wegmans was also voted
as one of the 100 best places
to work in America by Fortune magazine: 2005,
number one; in 2006 they held the number two spot
and in 2007 the number three spot.
Wegmans respects our commitment to our customers that:
if a customer doesn’t like the item they’ve purchased,
if the item doesn’t meet their needs,
doesn’t meet the standards, they have the right to raise their concerns.
Wegmans publicly posted customer complaints on their Web site;
Feedback forms are easy to use,
and obviously anyone can read them.
The Web site clearly states
that anyone living on this earth can submit a complaint
to them and will surely get a response shortly.
We’ve tried it and it’s true that it works.
Vice President of Customer Service Mary Ellen Burris integrates
all information related
to customer complaints into her work plan and informs customers
of Wegmans activities related to the responses they receive.
For example, in a column on the Wegmans Web site,
Mary noted that customers had complained
that they could not easily read the product size information
on the lids of the bleach bottles,
and Wegmans responded to that comment to contribute
to this by changing the cap color.
Complaining customers are often loyal customers
to be able to accept and appreciate complaint as a gift,
we need to change our perception
and attitude towards the role complaint plays in modern business relationships.
This requires us to separate the language of the complaint
from the emotion of being blamed,
to understand the motivations of disappointed customers
and to think about how the complaint helps us achieve our business goals.
How is your business?
Take a look at the following examples from the housing industry,
and guess what these companies would think if they were asked
to treat a complaint as a gift.
Marvin Windows & Doors noticed that window
and door frames often rot and complaints only surfaced
after the one-year warranty expired.
The cause of this problem was actually a wood preservative
from Pittsburgh Paint & Glass (PPG).
But PPG shirked responsibility
and Marvin Windows & Doors stepped forward
to accept responsibility for its part.
They accepted to exchange damaged products,
no longer cooperate with PPG suppliers
and found a better supplier of preservatives,
so they were able to increase the product warranty
from 1 year to 10 years.
In 2007, for the second time in a row,
Marvin Windows & Doors earned top scores in the J. D. Powers
and the Association of Civil Engineering Repair
and Construction Companies Awards.
Dryvit Company manufactures heat
and sound insulation panels and systems
for exterior decoration of buildings.
In many of the claims,
moisture had rotted the wood paneling outside the cladding,
the main cause of which was later investigated
as a fault of the builder during installation.
However, Dryvit still took responsibility
and then added a dehumidification system
to keep the product dry.
Dryvit also increases the warranty period to 10 years.
Thanks to this change, Oak Ridge National Laboratory,
the most prestigious testing agency of the US Department of Energy,
ranked Dryvit’s product 84% higher than a similar product
of the second manufacturer.
In the late 1980s, the Louisiana-Pacific Building Materials Company began
to receive numerous complaints about rotting
of the timber outside the truss in the InnerSeal panel,
which is particularly common in climates in the Northwest – Pacific coast.
There are 800,000 homes using this product,
and customers have filed a class action lawsuit.
Louisiana-Pacific decided to take responsibility,
even though the damage was caused by installation errors,
not the product,
and they replaced all damaged boards.
The company redesigned the entire plank
to make the product resistant to humid climates,
named it SmartSide, and claimed a 50-year product warranty.
Six years after the announcement of this preeminent feature,
the company’s market share expanded many times over before,
and was also recognized by the market
through the numerous awards they had received.
Dudley Webre purchased a lumber yard in Luling, Louisiana,
since it was not yet a promising business area in the area.
Webre went directly to the contractors to find out
what were the issues that worried them the most.
It turns out that the lumber yards only deliver
when the trucks are loaded with enough logs.
That means contractors must protect their timber from theft.
So Webre offers smaller payloads to both eliminate thieves
and help customers save money
by reducing theft,
even though they end up incurring a slightly higher cost.
The result is,
From 1982 to 1994,
Laundry Lumber increased their business capacity by 300%.
Once customers take the time to complain,
they also have some faith in your company.
After all, as long as they complain,
they are still our customers.
Former President Bill Clinton,
through campaigning for his wife during the fierce contest
between the two Democratic presidential candidates in 2008,
told a story with the intention of reminding all members of the campaigning
to keep in touch with undecided voters.
He said that when he was Governor of Arkansas,
he never gave up on finding another vote in favor.
When Clinton was campaigning at an oil company where,
thanks to government intervention,
three hundred employees were kept from losing their jobs.
Clinton met an employee who clearly didn’t like him,
who told him, “I never voted for you.
Even if you were the last person on earth,
I wouldn’t vote for you!” Clinton replied,
“Hey, man, I gave you the job!” He replied,
“Yes, but you do it just so you have an extra taxpayer.”
“Well, I consider him a hesitant voter,” Clinton said.
All the customers who come to you complaining
are also hesitant customers.
They are still talking to you.
Don’t miss them!
because it’s an important part of your customer acquisition strategy
Read complaints in the eyes of customers
and you will find it easier
to treat them as a gift.
Imagine yourself as a customer complaining about something.
What will you think and how will you feel?
How is your reaction?
What do you expect?
What can cheer you up?
For you, what is the necessary response
to get out of this confrontation
and feel comfortable with your complaint
and feel better about the company?
Any conduct based on honesty is always a good start.
Are there any customers trying to ruin your business?
But you can’t treat all customers as if they were thieves just
to protect yourself from a few true thieves.
author of the best-selling book Selling the Dream,
writes on his blog:
“The point is to never label the worst-case scenario as common.
If we put in place a policy to focus on the worst case scenario,
the worst person,
that effort will backfire
and offend the majority of customers.”
It is estimated that 1 – 4% of customers systematically cheat companies.
Most companies see this type of behavior
as part of the cost of doing business,
although everyone finds it better to minimize that loss.
It is clear that the Internet has given rise
to many dishonest intentions.
Fraudulent activities of any kind are rampant on the Web.
The key is to keep your phishing antenna on alert
without offending honest customers.
George Sarris, the owner of The Fish Market in Birmingham,
Alabama, was asked for $6.89 by a frustrated customer,
which was payment for a dinner he claimed
to have spent at the restaurant.
Sarris often have close contact with customers,
so when I find I can’t remember this particular customer,
he became suspicious and decided to investigate.
He made a few phone calls
and learned that this man had been eating
and drinking all over town,
then pretended to be upset
and always demanded that the restaurants pay him back $6.89!
Most other restaurants pay for it
because the amount is too small
for their destructive reputation.
If this is the case,
it’s best to write a gentle,
(according to the Gift Formula presented in Chapter 6)
and make it clear that you would be happy
to return the number. money on request.
In any case, don’t question the integrity of this “god”
but ask him for a copy of your bill
or some other personal information for your records.
If you’d like,
include a stamped,
for them to respond more easily
– if the complaint is legitimate.
Always be on the lookout for someone taking advantage of your business
with excessive claims…
Other customers who see your reaction will understand
that you respect your customers
and take every feedback into consideration.
customer feedback as gifts.
These people will give more consideration
when giving their own feedback.
Tom Weir, the editor of Grocery Headquarters,
recounted how he watched a customer cursing loudly
and murderingly demanding the return of a carton of milk he claimed
to have bought early in the morning
but was past its expiry date,
and spoiled milk.
The supermarket manager just sat in his room looking out at the cash register
and replied loudly that customers should always check the expiry date
before buying anything.
This is a very good example of blame.
After all, how many of us check the expiration date every time we shop?
Since when did the customer become the person in charge of the inventory?
It’s not a great story,
but Weir asked some interesting questions
to see what message customers
who had the opportunity to observe the scene received.
That is, would the same thing happen
to them if they complained at this supermarket?
How is the brand of this supermarket affected?
Do customers think it’s the supermarket’s policy?
Weir then asked questions about the message
the salespeople would get from the story.
Do they find angry customers unreasonable?
If so, what is the limit that an employee can refrain
from attacking a customer?
It was clear that other customers saw the customer’s lack of restraint,
but as Weir pointed out,
they must have also noticed that the customer’s complaint was legitimate
and that he was treated impolitely.
These people will wonder if the company really cares about
taking care of their customers.
If an individual or company assumes
that they find complainants suspicious and indecent,
the customer will immediately turn on the defensive or fight back.
Worse, they will walk away angrily
and say nothing to the company’s upper management
but will tell everything to everyone they know.
At that point, you will no longer have the opportunity
to protect the company’s reputation.
Some people lack communication skills,
so when they complain,
they may have excessive attitudes
They look grumpy,
or even a little silly.
Maybe they don’t know what is reasonable.
Service providers must know how to focus on the content
of the complaint and the emotions expressed,
not on whether the complaint is expressed
in a socially acceptable manner are not.
This requires a lot of effort on the part of the service providers,
but once they realize that complaints are gifts,
that’s when they start from the strongest of foundations
to excellently manage one of the most difficult aspects
of customer relationships.
F. Discussion questions
How does your company perceive customer complaints?
What are the different views on complaints in your company?
How do you talk about your complaining customers?
Do you consider them to be the one bringing you gifts?
but how do employees
who deal directly
with customers and managers in your company see the difference?
What is the salient point of the view
that complaints are an opportunity to please frustrated customers?
What do your employees in direct contact with customers say
when they can’t solve a customer’s problem?
Are they inclined to blame company policy?
How often do they make apologies?
What kind of reactions do these words cause in customers?
What specific lessons have you learned
from complaining customers?
Does your company have appropriate approaches
to encourage customers
to raise complaints to learn from them?
Do you think your company handles customer complaints better
than other companies in the same line of business?
If yes, where does your company rank in this group of companies?
Do you aim to reduce customer complaints?
How does that affect your approach to complaint handling?