Unhappy Customers are a Blessing in Disguise

Sometimes customer complaints can be a good thing.

By Rich Lindblom, YSN

Raise your hand if you hate dealing with customer complaints. Go ahead, you know you want to.

Well, I’ve got news for you: A complaining customer is perhaps the greatest opportunity you will ever have to win a customer for life.

You read that right. Complaining customers are not a liability, they actually are an asset.

Now don’t get me wrong, not all complaining customers are an asset.  As my father used to say, “There are some customers that the Lord Almighty Himself couldn’t please.” Those customers are simply a lost cause.  Fortunately, they are few and far between.

See: The Customer Isn’t Always Right

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Rich is off his rocker. How in the heck can a complaining customer be an asset and an opportunity?” All I ask is that you give me three minutes of your time and I’ll prove it to you. 

As you well know, there are a lot of different types of unhappy customers in your world.  But for the sake of simplicity, I’m going to break them down into the two most basic categories: 

Type 1: Silent but Deadly

Type 2: The Complainer

Let’s talk first about Type 1, the Silent but Deadly customer.  A lot of retailers (including many people I know very well) consider it a blessing when the customer, who they know for one reason or another is unhappy, doesn’t call their store to complain.  Well, you shouldn’t be rejoicing, because that Silent but Deadly customer is very likely never coming back to your store.  You just lost a customer forever!  They had a problem, and they simply will never do business with your business again.

But that’s not even the worst part of the story.  The worst part is that they are probably going to end up costing you additional customers as well.  According to recent studies, the average dissatisfied customer will tell between nine and 15 people about their bad experience with your company, and a whopping 13 percent of dissatisfied customers will tell more than 20 people about their bad experience at your store! 

Please take a moment to let those statistics sink in, because they are mindboggling numbers if you ask me. 

And with the proliferation of social media and online reviews, everyone is now quite bold about typing nasty things about your company from the safety of their living rooms.  It doesn’t matter if they’re true or not; once they hit the “submit” button, it’s there for everyone to see.

Related: Think Before You Click!

Now let’s talk about Type 2, The Complainer. The way I see it, when a customer calls you to complain about something, they are actually doing you a favor.  They are calling to let you know they are unhappy with something, be it the product you sold them, something one of your employees may have done wrong, or maybe a lower price they found at one of your competitors.  And I get it.  Nobody likes to hear complaints about their company. 

But I really think you need to ask yourself why they are taking the time to call you, because that is the key to this whole situation.  

Whether they come right out and say it or not, the Type 2 customer is simply asking for your help!   

Right now, that Type 2 customer is sitting on a proverbial teeter-totter. They are at a tipping point and the situation can go either way depending upon how you handle it.  If you blow the customer off, or worse yet argue with them, you will very likely turn a Type 2 customer into a Type 1 customer.  And I’ve already shown you how destructive to your business a Type 1 customer can be. 

Conversely, if you take care of that Type 2 customer by listening to what they have to say and resolving the issue to their satisfaction, you will very likely win a customer for life. 

Those same studies show that customers who get their issue resolved tell four to six people on average about their experience!  You have demonstrated that you care about their happiness, and they know in their hearts that the next time they do business with your company and a problem should arise, you will take care of it.

So, when it comes to complaining customers, instead of saying “Oh no!”, what you should be saying is, “Thank you sir, may I have another?”

I have three goals in mind with my columns: To motivate, educate and entertain.  If I have achieved at least one of those, then I’ve done my job. Don’t be shy about letting me know if you agree — write me at egvrich@gmail.com.