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Customers Who Complain
by Dera DeRoche-Jolet

It might seem strange for me to say this but complaining customers are good for your business.

It's basic human nature to want to avoid unpleasant experiences. Nobody likes bad news. But uncovering customer complaints and making them right can give you an effective competitive advantage.

Think back to some of your previous experiences. Most customers don’t take the time to complain - at least not to you. They’ll just quietly switch to another alarm company.
So it’s to your advantage to listen to what your customers are complaining about. That’s because dissatisfied customers or clients can do one of four things:

1. They can remain silent
2. They can complain to a legal or public agency
3. They can complain to friends, family and others
4. They can complain to you

Which choice would you like them to make?

You certainly don't want them to complain to a legal or public agency. And you definitely don't want them to complain to their friends and associates. Can you imagine how much business that can cost you?

At first, you might just want them to remain silent. But it's not the best choice for two reasons. First, because they really won’t remain silent. It's human nature for people to talk about their experiences - especially bad experiences involving unsatisfactory business sale. A more productive reason you don't want a dissatisfied customer to remain silent is because it takes away the chance for you to fix the problem and salvage your relationship with your customer.

That’s why the best choice is to have your unhappy customer complain to you.
Customers and even potential ones who take the time and trouble to complain to you are really helping you grow your business. They're giving you the opportunity to resolve their problems and keep them as a customer. They're also alerting you to a problem that you’re not aware of. And that may be costing you business from other prospects and customers.

If the problem is your responsibility you can correct it. If the problem is with a product your company uses or something the company has done or even failed to do, you can let them know about it and ask them to correct it. You can tell your service people, sales force and installers about it and let them know the company is taking corrective action.

In fact, it’s a good idea to encourage customer complaints. If customers complain, you’ll be able to know right away the magnitude of the problem and you’ll be able to respond quickly to minimize the damage. How much longer would it take you to discover a problem if a customer didn’t complaint?

One way to encourage customer complaints and feedback is advertising a toll-free line or a special extension. Here are three other ways especially suited to alarm companies.

* Develop a customer satisfaction and comments form. Include it with the literature you provide after an installation or send it as a separate mailing.

* Telephone them a few days after completing an installation and ask if they are satisfied, if they understand the system and if everything is working properly.

* Send a follow up postcard to customers a week or 10 days after completing a installation and ask for their comments.

* Create a separate page at your web site for customer comments and complaints. Publicize the address on your home page and on direct mail, newsletters and any other communications with your customers.

Believe it or not, your customers know your strengths and weaknesses better than you do. Get them to identify your weaknesses and to tell you what they are so you can correct them. You’ll probably hate it at first. It will probably be uncomfortable and even ego deflating to hear about your company’s weaknesses. But once you take corrective action and see the positive impact it has, you won’t be complaining about your customers complaining again.