By Pekka Rantajärvi, Executive Consultant, CEO at Real Rainmakers. May 18, 2016
“Could you come over here and give me a hand? That customer is a crazy PIMA!”
Far too few managers love to hear this from their employees.
However, if you run a business and want to be successful, you should learn to see the great opportunity hidden in initially negative customer reactions. As a matter of fact, a pissed off customer – who is complaining – is often an invaluable goose laying Golden Eggs right in the front of your eyes!
Most of customers who are not happy with what your business delivers, do not express their dissatisfaction verbally, but they reduce their future purchases of your products and services.
A loudly complaining customer is actually a rare co-operative partner you should spend time with as long as you get an opportunity. Enjoy the momentum and do not let her leave, before you get her Eggs!
First, you should show and tell her you are honestly sorry for that you did fail to meet her expectations this time. Then forget all your pride, formal position and other secondary things; you need to give her your genuine attention. If you have an actively selling type of personality, this typically means you need to suppress all your visible pride and become for a moment as humble as you ever can. You need to kind of leave your personality for a short while to turn yourself into two big ears and one big heart. Let the transformation be visible on your face too. This is not totally easy, but as a professional you can learn this too. Still you should have a lower limit for where you go, so you avoid looking like a frightened poodle. The goal of this “metamorphosis” is to make sure you completely understand the reasons to customer´s dissatisfaction. Avoid your own assumptions. Concentrate on what comes in trough your ears. Shut up your mouth while the customer talks. Call it business-BDSM or what you want, but in business customers rule!
As soon as you have got clear the reasons of the bad customer experience, find the most satisfying and fastest solution for the customer – not for you. Make sure you keep her updated while you are working on a solution. The customer does not know how much you do to serve her unless you share it with her. While doing this, you should avoid a too far common basic mistake. Do not blame others. You are selling the product. You are the company. You received the cash the customer paid for the product or service that let her down. Keep focus strictly on finding a solution, and keep communicating with the customer. You and your company are all on her side. Let her feel it.
Another basic mistake of even experienced customer service persons is to have a presumption that a complaining customer is a difficult person who is misusing your service. That is the case in some few cases, but in the vast majority of cases it is not. You need to keep in mind that the experience of the customer is real for her. Her perception is that you are expecting her to pay for something she did not get. She invested cash and time in your business, but she found herself let down. Keeping this in mind helps you to keep the right basic tone in your conversation with the goose.
Golden Eggs are valuable, but they are heavy too, so of course you feel pain when she is laying them on your toes while you need to keep your mouth shut up and concentrate on your ears.
The reasons to why your service did not fulfill her expectations may be many and varied. In any case, they fall outside the scope of this article. Instead, let us take a brief look on the top three value elements that make the Golden Eggs laid by dissatisfied customers so incredibly valuable for your business:
Firstly, a professional dialogue with a complaining customer is a great opportunity to get an authentic understanding of customer perceptions concerning your business. Quite obviously, this helps you to develop your business processes and products to meet better the expectations of your customers in the future. Often pretty simple actions and process changes may improve the customer experience, but sometimes the actions needed may be much more radical. In any case, a loudly speaking customer gives you information that is necessary to optimize the customer experience and maximize the sales. Think about that a loudly complaining customer is often just a tip of the iceberg. Most probably many customers did walk away from you before you felt the sweet pain of the first Golden Egg laid on your toes. However, there is no need to rewrite your business plan based on one Golden Egg, but as you build up your Egg collection you get a reliable basis for improvement actions.
Secondly, you can often turn a dissatisfied customer not only into a regular customer, but into a positive missioner of your business. When a customer decides to complain verbally, the situation is often pretty emotional for her. She will remember what happened a good while afterwards. Therefore, there is a high probability that she will share her experience with her friends, colleagues and other social networks – also online. If you manage to be humble enough, i.e. you manage to have large enough ears and heart – and you compensate her the right way, she will talk pretty warmly about your business, as she felt taken care of and respected in the end of the day. If you failed, well, you can easily figure out how the social guillotines work in that case.
Thirdly, frequent “trouble” with customer complaints and the “PIMA” type of expressions when talking about customers, are often a valuable reminder of that you really need to work actively to get all the team members truly committed to the customer centricity visions of your company.
Think also about the risk that you may not get enough Golden Eggs laid on your toes before you lose a substantial amount of customers, i.e. revenues. Therefore, it is often wise to ask external experts to evaluate the customer satisfaction and perceptions your company is actually delivering. The factual outcome may not always be what you see on the vision and values slides of your leadership team.
So, when you see Golden Eggs to fall on your toes, remember to love the initial pain, there is so much to gain!
Pekka Rantajärvi is Executive Consultant and CEO at Real Rainmakers, your Business Consultancy and Sales Training Partner. www.realrainmakers.com
Keywords: Sales Skills, Customer Service, Customer Experience, CRM, Business Development, Customer Experience Evaluation, Customer Focus, Negative Customer Reactions, Customer Feedback, Sales Training, Sales Coaching, Team Development, Customer Perception, Customer Complaint, Customer Skills, Service Attitude, Team Coaching, Sales Motivation, Coach.