Service Stories: Getting Customer Complaints Right

Our review of service stories kicks off with this most important concept:

Understand where your customers are complaining and what customer complaints are most prevalent.

I sat in a local government proceeding last month where a government employee asserted that there were no complaints about taxicabs in a jurisdiction serving more than one million people.  He finally acknowledged that there were likely issues, but that they didn’t bother consumers enough to complain.

The corollary is almost certainly true.   Consumers certainly received poor service and almost certainly complained about that service.  They complained to the companies involved, a different agency or to others who don’t record complaints.  But because those consumers had not complained in the way that the county dictated they should, county employees asserted multiple times that the county’s programs worked fine and consumers were pleased.

Such nonsensical thinking only occurs in bureaucracies where people don’t have to close the doors if they are wrong too often.  In a small business, pretending that unheard customer complaints means everything is okay is inviting disaster.  Many indicators exist to tell you about your service or product:  revenue, repeat customers, word-of-mouth referrals and proactive market research.

That’s right:  go ask customers how happy they are.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is that you can’t rely on your systems to tell you about service quality by telling you about their complaints.. Go where your customers share their experiences.  Listen.  Ask questions.  Repeat.  Ignore finding out about customer complaints at your own peril.

Customer service and consumer affairs contact centers are for problem resolution.  The very best among them measure customer satisfaction, but that’s usually a market research function.  A small business leader wearing both hats should already be asking these questions.

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