by Lisa Lake
How many mottos for service companies have you heard that claim “We Listen to Customers”? Ignoring customers is like ignoring the brown speckled leaves on your tomato plants. They both feed you. But every business gets customers who complain about a product, service, new look, price hike, or change in policy. Are they just whiners, or have they put some thought into their opinions?
Consider Complaints Carefully
I’m that kind of customer that likes to make suggestions for improvements when I shop. I do it kindly, I believe even intelligently. With a marketing background I can’t stop myself.
Be tolerant with this sort of consultant/complainer. My dad is one, too.
Take, for example, the egg department at Megagrocery Store. You could call it scrambled, week after week. The little plastic prices are half broken off the shelves, never repaired. The sign overhead is crammed with more little plastic numbers and undecipherable abbreviations. The whole situation makes me doubt whether they ever change the prices, even though their grocery flyer claims week to week sale prices. At Smallergrocery Store a mile away, they switch out paper signs above the egg racks every week. The simple signs are nicely handwritten on thick colored paper. Disposable. Inexpensive. No-brainer. THIS WEEK! LARGE DOZEN, 99 CENTS. I grab one and head off.
I had to point out the unnecessary egg chaos to management in Megagrocery. The problem? It’s much too difficult for the busy shopper to decipher egg prices. The solution? Easy! Apparently he didn’t like my telling him how nicely his competitor does it, because he didn’t change a thing. (Or ask his vendor to.) But sometimes I get results.
Watch out for the mere grumblers. Those with chronic complainitis.
Every time my family went to dinner with my husband’s grandparents, they whined about having to choose between soup OR a salad with the entrée. “You mean you don’t get BOTH? Really?” The grumbling went on for whole minutes, their complaining more acidic than the lemon in their ice tea. Diners all around us ordered with ease and enjoyed their dinners. It had been a long time since restaurants had offered both, especially at your Chicken Fried Steak for $5.99 kind of a place – and they knew it. But Gramma and Grampa were STILL unhappy about it, and always let waitresses know.
So when you get complaints does it mean you made a mistake or that it’s time to change a product or policy? Not necessarily. Is the complaint coming from an isolated individual or a very small group of customers? You can’t please everyone. You may be pleasing a large group of customers (who you don’t hear from) while the same policy brings complaints from a few. Watch for the Same Question Over and Over
One of the best gifts your customers can give you just happens to be among the most annoying. From time to time you will notice customer after customer asks the same question.
This happened to my employer when just about everyone who inquired about his press release service wanted to know if they could approve the release before it was sent to thousands of media. Soon after that a new web page paragraph in bold red letters proclaimed, “We send your release to you for your approval BEFORE it goes to media.” Sales jumped.
Recurring questions in your business can lead you to correct an oversight. That can give sales an immediate boost.
Ads often declare, “You asked for it. Now we offer Product X!” Business is, after all, about pleasing customers. Currently I’m “consulting” my grocer on the benefits of reduced-fat salami. Half the fat but excellent taste. Can’t they find a vendor please, and soon?