Posted on 02/10/19

When Channel 4 launched a video detailing some of the complaints they have received about programmes, presenters, content, etc. it may have appeared they weren’t taking the issue seriously. That’s far from being the case though.

Highlighting the fact that people take the time to tell them when they’re unhappy and following it up with “Complaints are Welcome” encourages more people to tell them where they’re getting it wrong. Yes, some of the complaints were silly, some were even telling about the prejudices and offensive views of the complainant, but all give an excellent insight into the minds of their viewers. Here’s why The Business Village also welcomes complaints, (and compliments!!!).

You’ll probably have seen the old sign in many shops and businesses;

“If you’re happy with our service tell everyone – if you’re not, tell us!”

The basic premise of this is valid. In the days before social media, if someone received excellent service, they might tell a friend. According to the customer service training at the time, if they received poor service, statistically they would tell at least twelve people. Back then, we thought this could be pretty damaging.

Nowadays, with social media being such a big part of people’s lives, it’s easy for someone to tell hundreds, if not thousands of people about their experiences as a customer. We’ve all seen the viral posts about restaurants treating people badly; we’ve also seen the big brands with damage control in full swing when someone shares a negative incident that ‘goes viral’.

To put things into perspective, ‘going viral’ is very unlikely when it comes to messing up Mr Smith’s order or giving Mrs Jones the wrong change. BUT if you really get things wrong, or an employee goes ‘rogue’, you can find your business getting attention for all the wrong reasons. (Inverted commas are a key element of this post; be warned!)

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity”

Really?

Do people still believe that?

Let’s go back in time and consider Gerald Ratner. In a speech to the Institute of Directors in 1991, Gerald single-handedly destroyed his multi-million-pound jewellery empire with just 16 words.

“How can you sell this for such a low price?”, I say, “because it’s total crap.”

This was way before Facebook and Twitter, but it definitely ‘went viral’, leading to his company’s individual share value plummeting from £4.50 to £0.02. Ultimately, all of Ratner’s 2500 stores closed and it disappeared from our High Streets.

More recently, Dove suffered a backlash for a dreadful advertising campaign that depicted a black model turning white after using its products. They apologised and pulled the ad, but the hashtag #BoycottDove trended on Twitter around the world.

Clearly, these are extreme examples. More likely for small businesses is that someone who is unhappy enough to publicly complain, will tweet about it to their friends, family, a few people who know them from work and a couple of bots. Then they’ll put it on Facebook, for the same family and friends, along with some people they met on holiday and school friends they haven’t seen for years. Is this really a big deal you ask? Well, the question is, are you prepared to risk it?

How a business responds to complaints, whether in private or on a public platform is VERY important. So, what are the key things to remember?

Acknowledge

First of all, acknowledge the complaint. Never just ignore and hope it will go away.

Investigate

Look into what happened and find out where things have gone wrong.

Respond

If your company is in the wrong, it’s always better to admit that on this occasion, you didn’t live up to the standards you aim to meet.  If the customer is in the wrong, (and in truth, the customer isn’t always right) don’t get into a ‘tit for tat’ exchange. Ask the customer to send a private message with their contact details and try to find a resolution that works for you both.

Finally, make sure you also do your best to repair any damage to the customer relationship. This could be by giving something as an apology, such as a credit to be used when they next buy from you (always a good idea, as this means they are likely to give you a second chance and you can demonstrate what great service you usually offer).

Complaints can tell you if something has gone wrong with your systems, if an employee isn’t performing as they should, or if your company just isn’t hitting the right mark when it comes to what customers want. This is why it’s important to encourage AND listen to all customer feedback.

Of course, if you encourage customers to tell you what they think, you might not always like what you hear, but you will get some very valuable data.  This information will help you to budget and plan; to prioritise and ensure you are appealing to the people who will buy from you. If feedback consistently comes back to tell you that your shipping costs are too high for example, you will be able to assess that part of the business and pass that information on to the courier company you use. You might decide to change your shipping methods, or offer a cheaper option, giving the customer a choice between speed of delivery and cost.

Another good way to utilise feedback is to use it as the basis for blogs and articles on your website.  Blogs are a great way to answer customers’ questions. For instance, if you manufacture goods and receive questions asking why you can’t offer certain items within a short space of time, you could publish a blog or video that gives an insight into the process for production.

Complaints may be hard to take and sometimes they’ll be uncomfortable to deal with – especially if the customer is angry or upset, but they’re actually a great opportunity.  In addition, when you encourage feedback, you will (hopefully!) also receive positive comments telling you all about the things you are doing well. That’s always good to hear, right?