Why complaints can help sales

Accept it… sometimes things go wrong. No matter how hard you try, no matter what processes you put into place and no matter how good you and your team are, sometime, somewhere, somehow, something will go wrong. How your business responds though can be the difference between losing a customer and a future sale.

When it all hits the fan…

I appreciate that it sounds counterintuitive to think of a problem with a customer order as an opportunity, but it is. Let me explain why.

You have probably seen numerous variations on a theme of “5 stages of customer service”. They will usually be along the lines of:

  1. Listen
  2. Empathise
  3. Solve
  4. Act
  5. Confirm

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this process. You listen to the customer, make it clear that you understand their problem, then you offer a solution, if that solution is acceptable to them, you action it. Finally, you check everything is OK and close the case. The customer is happy, and you can go and have lunch. Next time you complain to a large retailer you will see these steps in action. They are commonly used because they work.

There are two things to think about here though that could be telling you an opportunity is being missed.

Firstly, very few of the business owners reading this article have a closed, single sale, based model. Most of us are servicing repeat customers. Secondly, it is focused on the problem at hand (the messed-up order) not the future potential.

It is right there, in that last point that a big opportunity could be being missed.

The Service Recovery Paradox

Let’s look at that customer service issue in a different way for a moment and focus down on the last step. The Service Recovery Paradox was first proposed in the early 90s by McCollough and Bharadwaj and, to paraphrase a much larger concept, it relates to the ‘good will’ generated by resolving a problem. It suggests that if you resolve a customer problem in a satisfactory way, they will not only remain loyal and tell others, but their opinion of the business will also become more positive.

So, let’s look at that last step again considering the Service Recovery Paradox. At stage 5 in the list above, you could have the following:

  • A happy customer
  • A customer who will be glad to hear from you
  • A customer who is currently very positive about your business

Now think about your sales teams and funnels. How much better would they perform if every potential customer could be described using those three bullet points? It’s pretty much a salesperson’s dream customer.

Need help with your sales? Get in touch with The Sales Ace.

Julie Futcher
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