Customer experience is all about perception. The perception of the experience that a customer has when it comes into contact with a firm or brand.
Now, there are various ways that firms use to gauge how they are performing when it comes to delivering a competitive customer experience. Metrics include a firm’s ability to attract new customers, how long they are able to keep those customers, how often those customers buy from them, how satisfied they are, how willing they are to recommend them to friends and colleagues and so on and so forth.
In addition, many firms also track the number of complaints that they have received and how long it has taken to resolve these complaints. This is done because we all intuitively know and accept that mistakes happen from time to time and they need to be fixed as quickly and easily as possible.
However, we also know from our own experience that not all customers complain. Some of the barriers to making a complaint include the customer’s personality type, expectations of how long it will take to resolve the complaint, how it will be received and how easy it is to take their custom elsewhere.
Many of these barriers are related to the customers themselves and many firms would argue that there is little that they can do about them. I don’t agree. Firms should be tackling these customer barriers by encouraging their customers to complain more. Why? Well, here are three reasons why firms should be encouraging more complaints and how it can and will help them improve their customer experience:
1. Increased capability
Most of us are scared of complaints. We don’t like them as they are a sign that we have done something wrong and/or it is a form of criticism. That may be true but we need to get over that fear or get better at managing it. Why? Because complaints and service failures are crucial to how we are remembered and thought of by our customers. Recent research by SDL shows that two-thirds of customers remembered a major customer experience failure over the last 10 years but less than half of them remembered a success. Moreover, SDL’s research also showed that 61% of failures can be traced back to a human or process failure and when customers did actually complain, 35% experienced poor response times to their questions and 15% said that they never heard back from the company.
Now, most firms may have a set of policies and procedures in place to deal with complaints and a training programme in place to equip staff with the skills that they need to deal with complaints. But, if those firms don’t encourage customers to complain then there is a danger that they will become like the sports team that does a lot of training but has a limited number of matches. Training alone doesn’t make sports teams better. A combination of the right people, the right training and the right matches allows teams to test themselves and through that process get better. The same is true in business.
2. Better and more useful feedback
Encouraging customers to complain is one way that firms can encourage their customers to talk to them more freely and to provide better feedback such that it helps them serve them better. Ian Siegel from ZipRecruiter in an interview puts it very well when he says that “customers are great at telling you what you should do next ….by telling you what they are frustrated with”. ZipRecruiter has really embraced this idea and has used it to help them develop their goal of ‘reducing their customer service calls to zero’. The idea being that if they build a business that is so good and has products that are so easy to use such that customers didn’t need to call them then they would have built the perfect product and perfect business.
3. It will make customers feel better
An article on Big Think contends that:
“Complainers are often chided because their negative emotion won’t change anything for the better. Complaining about cold weather, for example, isn’t going to make things warmer”.
But, whilst that might be true, Mariana Alessandri, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Texas-Pan American, also suggests that complaining also allows people to deal with, and process, many of the negative emotions that are associated with complaints. Moreover, in doing so, it can also help make us feel better about the complaint and move past it.
So, encouraging complaints from customers will not only help firms get better at handling and resolving them, it will also help them encourage their customers to provide better and more useful feedback. But also, and this is the icing on the cake, helping and encouraging customers to complain and get their complaints off their chest can also help them feel better and improve their perception and memory of the ‘experience’ that they have had.
This post was originally published on my Forbes.com column here.