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Here’s how not to handle customer complaints:

In 2018, a customer ordered three cartons of toilet paper from the world’s biggest e-retailer Amazon. Instead of charging the customer $90 for these cartons, Amazon tacked on a huge shipping charge of $7,455. Unsurprisingly, she complained to Amazon and asked for a reimbursement. She did this six times. After every complaint, she was told that since the delivery was made on-time and was undamaged, a refund was not possible. It took another three months and taking the story to a local TV station that (finally) prompted Amazon to reimburse the customer for the huge mistake.

Amazon was clearly in the wrong. Not only did the company not admit its mistake, but it also refused to really listen to the customer.

No customer expects any company to be perfect. However, what they do expect is that companies take accountability for their mistakes. They also expect companies to listen to them, whether they’re complaining, making suggestions, presenting opinions, or providing feedback.

Does your company listen to customers? Or does it simply ignore them?

Actively listening to customers can open the keys to the kingdom for your organization. Here’s why.

To Prevent Customer Churn

“Blockbuster could have avoided its downfall if the company knew right away that customers were leaving the stores upset.”

Big Mouth Survey

According to a 2020 study by Microsoft, two-thirds (58%) of consumers show little hesitation in severing a relationship with a business following a poor customer service experience. Sometimes these unhappy customers complain to the company. At other times, they vent on social media.

Ignoring these complaints (or even opinions) is a surefire path to customer churn. Worse, a lost customer is likely to take other customers with them. To avoid this fate, it’s vital to keep your eyes and ears open to customer voices. It’s also crucial to actively listen to them, analyze each bit of feedback, and take the right action to correct any issues – small or big – that are (or may) lead to customer churn.

To Gather Key Data for Improvement

Listening to customers is one of the best ways to self-analyze your company’s performance, find improve areas (aka “gaps”), and plan for improvements. Your customers are a great source of feedback. Whether you ask them to provide this feedback or whether they do it voluntarily, customer voices can generate lots of useful data that tells you how they feel about your offerings, customer service, or company.  

Measure customer satisfaction, listen to social media chatter and analyze their complaints and criticisms to diagnose what’s working for them, and what’s not. Use this information to guide your business decisions, create delightful customer interactions with personalization and meaningful connections, and ultimately, improve customer experiences.

To Create Brand Loyalty

One unhappy customer can create 10 more unhappy customers. The good news is that one happy customer can also create 10 more happy customers! In the modern age of social media, word of mouth is a powerful means to promote your brand. And you have it at your disposal – as long as you listen to customers.

Active listening is a way to show that you empathize with your customers’ challenges and needs and that you care about them as individuals who matter to your company. This can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction, happiness, and retention. These customers are also more likely to say good things about your company, whether on social media or offline. This is a scalable, low-cost way to boost your brand and build a community of loyal followers and brand ambassadors.

To Increase Repeat Business, Upsells and Cross-sells

A 2016 research study found that when companies are willing to help their customers via Twitter, the latter are more willing to spend 3-20% more on average-priced items from that business in the future. Twitter is just one example of a medium where customers talk. Unfortunately, not all companies listen.

Listening to customers on social media, responding to them promptly, and taking fast action to address their concerns can boost customer satisfaction. A happy customer is likely to consider your brand the top choice for future purchases, cross-sells, and upsells. In other words, listening creates repeat customers as well as higher-value customers.

Conclusion

Successful sales professionals practice “active listening” when interacting with customers. But this same quality should be cultivated and practiced by everyone in your company. Anyone who interacts with customers should listen carefully to what a customer is saying. They should also develop the ability to read between the lines and understand what the customer is not saying. This is a great way to tell the customer that “we are focused on you because you are important to us”. At the end of the day, this is what every customer wants. So if you’re not doing it yet, now is a great time to start.

Key Takeaways:

  • Customer voices are important as they tell you how they feel about your offerings, customer service, or company.
  • This can have a huge impact on customer satisfaction, happiness, and retention.
  • Active listening is a scalable, low-cost way to boost your brand.
  • Listening creates repeat customers as well as higher-value customers.
  • Active listening is crucial as it helps to read between the lines.
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