Since just about every company provides some level of service, let’s talk about service failures and how to approach them. Service failures are going to happen. The challenge is creating a culture where customers are comfortable letting us know that a service failure occurred.
What can a company do to elicit complaints?
First cultivate a mindset that customer complaints are a good thing. Convince employees to avoid the subconscious tendency to fear customer complaints and to look at the complaining customer as the enemy.
Show everyone in your company that the complaining customer is actually your friend because you learn from them. Complaints are valuable feedback EVEN when the customer is a bit irrational.
I’m not saying you have to completely agree with every complaint. I am saying you need to hear as many complaints as possible because the complaints are there whether you hear about them or not.
Also, make complaining easy. Let customers know who they can complain to and how they can do it. Tell them where to go and whom to talk to when they encounter problems. Make them feel confident that something positive will result from their complaint.
Then listen. Focus on how important listening is throughout the company. Listening is hugely important, and most people aren’t naturally good it. It’s a muscle we all need to continually develop.
Ask questions throughout the customer service process too. Ask for specific feedback and probe if you don’t receive it. “How is your meal?” usually gets a “fine” back as a response. Probe for specifics. Avoid questions that can be answered with just a “yes” or “No.”
Finally, conduct short, trailer surveys rather than the longer, more formal customer surveys. A follow up telephone call can make a huge impact — more so than an email survey. Trailer surveys work particularly well for B2B companies in hearing about issues early before they become bigger, long term problems.