It’s always fun to share wisdom with you that speaks to me. I was recently directed to some smartness from Author and Customer Service guru Jay Baer and a segment of his book, “Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep your Customers”. Jay has quite a resume as a customer experience and marketing expert, author, researcher and advisor. He has six best-selling books, is founder of five multi-million-dollar businesses and has worked with more than 40 Fortune 500 brands. The guy knows his stuff as a 7th generation entrepreneur. His expert analysis of dealing with customer complaints is what enticed me to share his wisdom on the topic with you. So, let’s get into it.  

No one likes to hear customer complaints. We can sometimes believe that the masses will never be satisfied, no matter what we do, and we just have to assume that unsatisfied customers are part of the job of having a business. We’ve even vilified the worst kind of complainers as ‘Karens’. But as you also know, keeping loyal customers is much easier (and CHEAPER) than acquiring new prospects. This means the role of the customer service department melds together, at certain angles, with your marketing department. Jay’s book breaks out the response strategy in what he calls ‘The HOURS Method’. Let me take a minute (pun intended) and show you how he spells it out:

H – treat your customers like HUMANS. Get personal with them. Robo-call menus, an automated email bounce-back with zero human follow-up and having to navigate an automated system isn’t very human-touchy, is it?
O – ONE CHANNEL. Have one channel where they can get help. This streamlines and speeds up the process.  
U – UNIFY data. Have all information needed to solve customer problems IN ONE PLACE. Again, streamlines and speeds the process.
R – Fully RESOLVE the issue for the customer. NOT for yourself. Just put yourself in their shoes and give the resolution you would want. Not expect, WANT.  
S –  SPEED. Fix their problems QUICKLY. Time is the one thing we’re all equally rich in, 1,440 minutes each day. In fact, Jay says time is the only inelastic resource, and for 64% of people, SPEED is as important to the customer experience as PRICE is.

Dealing with complaints isn’t easy, and no one is saying that it is, but if you can take a step back in really listening to a customer’s complaint, filtering out their anger or their tone, you will realize that complaints can actually be a good thing. Why? Because complaints provide REAL feedback from customers on how, what and where to improve, even who on your staff needs to improve. Jay says, “Customer Service begins when the Customer Experience fails.” If you’ve fielded multiple complaints about the same issue, you have an actionable, right? Something you must prioritize with attention and assets to work on improving immediately. It seems like in this world, for every person you have saying how great you are, there are 10 people saying you stink. (Thanks, social media!) And those 10 people are telling many more people. It’s like a customer’s revenge for a bad experience is leaving a negative online review, and trust me, they stick. So, best to turn those Negative Nancys, Debbie Downers and even Karens into Positive People, right? And doing so can take minutes when you use HOURS!

Always answer negative reviews. Your first instinct is most likely going to be retaliatory or defensive, and that’s natural. But it’s the worst kind of response you can make. Answering negative reviews in a sympathetic (or apologetic, if warranted) manner and tone shows that the complainer has been recognized. Realize that people only complain because they care. This customer contact experience can be a tipping point, where a negative vibe will lose them forever. A public forum complaint with a public company response can really defang a potentially poisonous review.

Take it off-line and one-on-one if possible. It’s your opportunity to be a hero. Provide a customer who has had a negative experience with outstanding customer service, treat them like a Human and Resolve their problem in a Speedy fashion (HRS, I abbreviated it, look at me!) and they can actually become even more loyal, and will share their experience with others about how you went above and beyond to make them feel seen. Once they know their opinion is matters, they’ll feel valued, and your product or service also will become important to them. A relationship with your brand just developed. Their word of mouth is valuable, yet inexpensive advertising, and who doesn’t want that bonus?

Customer retention can be a struggle in a crowded, competitive environment. Customer Service can make a big difference between winning and not winning. A great customer service reputation can be viewed (and used) as a competitive advantage too. If you find your business struggling with customer service issues, CMOco can help improve your company’s reputation, customer retention and help build (or rebuild) customer loyalty for your brand.

Let’s talk today, we’d love to hear your concerns and bring resolution to your issues!  

– Bruce Thiem, CMOco Director of Integrated Media