Unhappy customers are bad news. They are moaning monsters who have crawled straight out of a customer service personnel’s bad dream, intent on making their day difficult. Appeasing them is timely, compensating them is costly and woe betide if their complaint goes public, dragging down the organisation’s reputation. The typical tactic is to deal with them quickly and efficiently so that companies can concentrate on their more valuable customers.

But what if we told you that your unhappy customers are your most valuable customers?

The generosity of the unhappy customer

These individuals offer us one of the most crucial components to a successful organisation – The Voice of the Customer. The Voice of the Customer tells us what our customers want, like and expect from us. Knowing this and tailoring our company to meet it is a foolproof formula used by all successful businesses.
In fact, organisations that understand the value of this information invest significant time and money on surveys and feedback forms in hope of finding this Voice. In light of this, surely we should love those customers who are coming to us on their own accord, however forcefully, offering this information for free!Bill Gates quote

In an era where a tyrannous tweet can go viral in moments, bringing the brand to its knees, this free access to the Voice of the Customer is in abundance. As customers, we are quick to complain and companies are just as quick to respond: As many as 99% of brands have a presence on Twitter, of which 30% boast a dedicated handle for customer service complaints. Customer service is on high alert, and while this is something we seem to celebrate as customers, for companies it can be costly.

To get the value out of these complaints, companies must learn to extract the Voice of the Customer. And to do this, many must learn a new way of listening – one that doesn’t simply look to paper over the problem, but uses the complaint as an insight to improve their process.

A new way of listening

A team that knows the value of the Voice of the Customer will see a complaint as an opportunity for improvement. For example, when @LoyalCustomer publicly posts complaining that they missed their signed-for parcel as it was delivered after the allotted slot, they don’t assume the primary issue is lateness. They work to extract the real issue, which is the inaccuracy in the expected delivery time.

While those deaf to the Voice of the Customer would quickly publicly apologise for the lateness and offer a replacement to be sent first class, our team will use the Voice of the Customer as an indicator that their process is flawed. Of course they also apologise and send out a replacement, but they explain that they intend to improve the accuracy of their delivery slots to avoid this issue again and then, crucially, they’ll do just that.

Unhappy customer tweet.

Their process improves, their complaints decrease, and the expense of both time and money spent issuing a first class replacement becomes a cost of the past. While the complaint itself has cost the company the price of a replacement and first class delivery, the information this unhappy customer has provided has proven invaluable.

While we are not trying to instil a fuzzy feeling of warmth every time you answer an angry email, we are suggesting you learn to love your unhappy customers a little bit more. See each public post not as a challenge of how quickly you can respond and appease, but as an opportunity to identify issues and improve for both the company and its clients. These customers are not a drain on resources, they are a fountain of knowledge, and learning to see them this way will only benefit your process.
If you are interested in exploring the Voice of the Customer even further, take a look at some of our other insights including infographics and articles from Lean Six Sigma Black Belts.

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