Marketing tools: Complaining clients

Some years ago I made a, for me, rather substantial investment – a relatively high-end notebook. I was a student at the time, which meant I needed financing for the purchase as the price of the machine was more or less what I made in three months.

The frustration was quite big when the notebook broke down some time later.

Frustrated mails were sent to the manufacturer’s service department, who repaired the machine within a week – far quicker than I expected.

When the machine broke down again, the repair was even quicker, with most of the parts swapped out.

My experience with the brand went from good to irritated to very good. To the point where I was telling friends and family to only buy the brand (some actually did).


Because the brand took my case seriously. After all…


It’s personal

For your client the most important person in his universe is himself.

What that means is that whenever a service issue happens to someone else, it’s understandable. The service department is probably busy. Wait a couple of more days and it will be in order.

When it happens to your client though, it’s different. It’s personal.

As humans, we are ruled by feelings and emotions. We want to be nice to those that are nice to us and vice versa. We are both loyal and vindictive by nature.

This is also true when it comes to products and brands. We associate brands, as persons, with negative or positive experiences and emotions.

Treat your clients badly and they will never recommend you to their friends. In some cases they will even do what they can to destroy you. On the other hand, treat them well and you will have loyal fans that recommend your brand and products to everyone they talk to.

To be able to deal with complaints successfully, we need to understand why they arise.


Understanding complaints

A complaint is expressed dissatisfaction – no more, no less.

Dissatisfaction arises when expectations are not met.

Satisfaction on the other hand, arises when expectations are met or exceeded.

Depending on costs (monetary, emotional and time) and benefits perceived attainable by complaining, the dissatisfaction might never even come to your attention.

Complaining clients are already engaged in your brand.

Why is this important to know?

For two reasons:

1. A complaint is an excellent way of turning a dissatisfied client into an advocate for your brand.
2. As not every dissatisfied client complains, a moderate number of complaints might indicate a serious problem with what you offer.


How to deal with complaints

Successfully managing complaints and dissatisfied clients will do wonders for your marketing and business in general.

The first point, and perhaps the most important is to control expectations.

As earlier discussed, dissatisfaction is a product of expectations not being met.

If you are promised delivery within two business days, receiving the item three weeks later will make you less satisfied than if the estimated shipping had been, say, four weeks.

By managing your clients’ expectations, you will also control the satisfaction level to a much larger extent.

In other words, don’t promise too much. Make strong warranties, but stick to them. Keep it realistic.

What though, when something goes wrong outside of your control?

First point is to listen. Actively.

Make the client feel that you are doing what you can to understand the issue. How? Ask questions. Clear up misunderstandings. Take notes.

Then what?

If possible, solve the issue.

Small extra costs in terms of fixing an issue will in the long run be extremely beneficial.


While saving on small costs to keep your clients satisfied might very well increase your benefits short term, the long term effects of negative publicity and lost client can be enormous – even more so in today’s social media centric world, where your mistakes are quickly registered by hundreds or thousands of people – even if no more than one person publish it.

The opposite can also be true.

When dealing with service issues, the point is not to be right, but rather to appease the client. Make the client happy. Make the client loyal. Forget your ego.

At times it’s not possible to give in to the client’s demands, but at least make sure to do what’s reasonable in order for them to be satisfied. Those few unreasonable complainers should in any case be contradicted by your loyal ones.


Benefits of complaints

Complaints can actually be beneficial for your business.

As seen, successfully managing complaints will increase the loyalty to your brand.

It will improve the way people talk about your brand.

Also remember that complainers are already active – you would prefer them to complain to you and for it to stop there (as far as negativity goes).

Complaints also gives you direct feedback from the market regarding what doesn’t work, allowing you to remedy it. Be sure not to do anything rash based on only a minor

Managing complaints is crucial to any business. It might cost something, but the long term benefits are significant – especially where your brand is involved.

The next time you receive a complaint, don’t see it as a failure, but rather as a possibility to gain a new and loyal fan.

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