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7 Tips for Turning Customer Complaints into Competitive Advantage

man holding telephone screaming - customer complaints

Table of Contents

Customer complaints are a great thing!

What? You read that right.

Customer complaints, if handled properly, are a tremendous gift for your business. In this article, I’m going to show you how to shift your thinking about complaints, collect complaints, train your team to look for potential complaints, and turn them into new features and benefits that will have your customer choosing you over the competition every single time, regardless of price.

1. Reframe complaints as a good thing

We’ve been trained to see mistakes as a bad thing. We’ve grown up to see complaints as a bad thing. But what if the exact opposite is true.

Complaints are really commitments in disguise!

Stop and think about this for just a minute. Whenever you complain about something that you don’t want — something that you do want is on the other side of that.

  • “My order was late!” = I want to receive my order on or before the date you promised.
  • “The price is too high!” = I don’t feel like I’m getting what I pay for. There’s not enough “value” for the price I’m paying.

When you reframe complaints into potential opportunities, a whole new world opens up. Remember Domino’s?

Back in 2010, when a new CEO took over Domino’s, they were in trouble. You know, all the things; low sales, low profits, and unhappy customers.

But, instead of pretending that this was a good thing, Domino’s did something brave – they created an entire campaign based on the truth “Our Pizza Sucks”.

They embraced customer complaints and made making customers happy a core tenet of their business.

Ten years later, they’re still at it — really focusing on customer experience and using bad customer feedback to improve their products.

Imagine if you did the same thing!

2. Treat complaints as market research

When your customers complain, they are telling you both what they don’t want and what they do want. Listen carefully and learn from it.

Market research — the function of figuring out what your customers want and giving it to them, is the least followed (and most important) step of the marketing process.

There are really two self-reinforcing reasons for this.

Reason #1: You think you know your customer and your marketing better than your customers.

Reason #1: You think it’s expensive

Well, if you look at customer complaints like market research, you’re getting a super-two-fer. First, your customers are actually TELLING you what’s wrong. And, they are telling you for free.

The question is — are you listening? Do you have a system to capture these free golden nuggets?

3. Have a structure for grabbing complaints as soon as they happen

Implement a process that makes it easy for customers to voice their concerns or complaints. Make sure everyone on your team is aware of this process and how to handle customer feedback.

Now that we’ve established that complaints are a good thing and constitute free market research, it makes sense to create a “net” to capture them.

You’ll need a structure in place to grab these complaints.

Do This:

  • Use a passive customer feedback system at every step of the process. You can do this by slapping a QR code (or link) that leads to a single question survey for each step of your process. It can simply be a single rating question: “How did we do?” with a rating scale from 1-10. But if they answer anything LESS than a 9 — you simply ask “What was missing that would make it a 10?”
  • Set a goal to collect as many of these as possible! Create incentives like coupon codes or promo codes for simply filling this out.
  • Get excited when you see lower ratings — remember lower ratings mean feedback and your customer telling you what they don’t want is really them telling you what they DO want.

4. Create categories for complaints

This will help you with future growth planning, especially your SWOT analysis—complaints are weaknesses. Categorizing complaints makes it easier to prioritize and address them effectively.

Once you’ve collected at least 50 of these complaints, you’ll be able to create categories. One of the great things about collecting these categories is that you might identify new patterns or insights or categories that you may not have been aware of.

Every single new category is a new competitive advantage. You’re either learning about something your competition has or you’re going to be the first on the block to offer something your competition doesn’t.

5. Train employees to flag elements of the system that can cause complaints

This proactive approach can prevent complaints before they ever become an issue. Empower your team to identify potential weak points in your processes and work to improve them.

This is where it gets fun and exciting — enroll your team into the game of collecting complaints. You can take it a step further and allow your team to submit potential triggers for complaints that they spot in your system.

6. Respond to customers about the complaint and what you’re going to do about it

Taking ownership of the problem and demonstrating that you value their feedback is essential for establishing trust with your customers. Show them that you are committed to resolving the issue.

But it’s not just about collecting complaints – none of that matters if you don’t actually do something about it.

This is where the opportunity zone is. Create a system and a process for addressing these complaints.

I recommend using an idea management software where you can have conversations about this.

  • You can keep it simple and create a group in Facebook.
  • Try using a Trello board to keep customers engaged in tracking how their complaints turned into projects.
  • Ideanote is another great options.

Using an idea management software gives some much needed transparency and customer engagement. Again, another low-cost, high-engagement way to enroll customers in creating an experience they will love and build a ton of brand loyalty.

7. Reframe complaint fixes as new features and benefits – then promote them

Once you’ve addressed your customers’ concerns, turn it into a selling point for your business. Share how you’ve listened and made improvements to provide better products or services.

Finally, transform all of those complaints into amazing new features and benefits that are 100% customer centered.

Promote the hell out of them, enroll customers to share their stories of how they voiced their complaint and how awesome your process was for converting that complaint into something that makes them eternally loyal.

In conclusion:

Customer complaints are a great thing. They serve as free market research, free product development, and fuel for competitive advantage. By implementing these tips, you can create a more effective and efficient system to handle customer complaints and concerns, ultimately leading to increased customer satisfaction, loyalty, and overall success for your small business.

Happy customer service!

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