7 ways to turn customer complaints into valuable learning experiences

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At some point, even the best-run business will encounter and have to deal with a customer complaint. The obvious first step is to resolve the issue, but it’s also important to step back and look at the “big-picture” perspective. When leaders do that, there are two options: They can view customer complaints as “nuisances” that have to be dealt with or as valuable opportunities to learn.

The Business Journals

As many leaders note, when a customer complains about your product or service, they’re actually doing you a favor — they’re showing you where you may be coming up short. And it’s just as important to know where you’re struggling as where you shine. Below, seven members of Business Journals Leadership Trust share smart strategies to help your business create processes and methods for handling and learning from customer complaints.

1. Measure and incentivize decreases in complaints.
Measuring a decrease in customer complaints helps drive problem resolution and problem prevention for many organizations. Done well, companies can encourage learning from mistakes or complaints, making it less likely there will be repeat mistakes or issues. Coupling these learnings with incentives associated with driving a decrease in customer complaints is a winning formula. – Kimberly Janson, Janson Associates

2. Consider the thought behind the complaint.
Never view a complaint as a nuisance. Try to think about the underlying thought behind the complaint — is something wrong with your product? Are people misunderstanding how to use your product? Once you’ve figured out the reason why someone is complaining, own it and commit to fixing the issue. – Jamie Anderson, Emergent Software

3. Don’t get caught up in the customer’s tone.
Always listen to customer feedback, and don’t get caught up in the tone of the feedback. Review it from a higher level where you can gain insights into things that can be learned or improved upon. – Jessica Hawthorne-Castro, Hawthorne Advertising

4. Reframe complaints as feedback.
Reframing a complaint as customer feedback and insight opens the door for a dialog to improve the problem your company is solving. Being curious and open-minded allows organizations to ensure their solutions are the best for their clients’ needs. – Rachel Namoff, Arapaho Asset Management

5. Uncover the facts and determine the truth.
First and foremost, it comes down to determining the truth. Uncover the brutal facts. Look at each review and ask, “What could we have done better here?” When we do that, we put ourselves in the customer’s shoes, which allows us to relate and have empathy. That leads to the “why,” the “how,” and resolving the issue for the client and making things right. – David Wescott, Transblue

6. Listen and refine best practices accordingly.
Customer feedback is one of the most valuable components in building a great company. We need to listen to customers and refine best practices accordingly. It doesn’t make a difference if you are a restaurant, a retailer or a B2B company — listen closely! – Donna Michaels, LMGPR

7. Keep a positive, customer-centric focus.
Some of our best opportunities in IT have been in the wake of a disaster. If you view challenges as a chance to prove your worth — as a time to show why clients are engaging you in the first place — you will often find they are your best opportunities to shine. Keep a positive, customer-centric focus throughout challenging times, have a “can-do” attitude and be solution-oriented. – Jared Knisley, Fizen Technology

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