Turning Customer Complaints to Customer Loyalty: Challenge #4 of 5


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Jeff Eilertsen offers service performance insights to address five essential service challenges every organization must successfully address. In this interview with Ron Kaufman, Jeff discusses the fourth challenge, Turning Customer Complaints to Customer Loyalty.


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Ron: Ron Kaufman and Jeff Eilertsen and we’re looking at what are the major reasons that clients come to us and say: “help we need some support from an organization like yours to help us do better, achieve service excellence, improve service performance.”

We’re up to number four, which is?

Jeff: Simply, how do you manage complaints? There’s the volume of complaints, and the speed of complaints has increased dramatically – particularly with technology, social media – so we have customers say: “How are we going to manage these complaints?”

What’s interesting to me about this is the focus tends to be on how can we solve these complaints faster and what’s often missing is how can we get at the root cause of those complaints and change that or build it into our organizational learning in some way and, even more importantly, how can we leverage the complaints to actually build customer loyalty.

Ron: Okay, you’re saying a lot of things here right?

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron: So one is the volume of complaints: people are willing to complain more, the speed: you’re gonna hear about it right away, but there’s also the severity of the impact of one of those complaints

Jeff: That’s right.

Ron: because of the social world and how many people are listening.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron: And what I heard you say is that then clients are focusing on: “okay how quickly can we resolve this” rather than…

Jeff: Rather than getting back to what caused it in the first place: there’s something that we need to do or change that can eliminate this complaint altogether.

Ron: And does that lead to not only like: “how do we stop that problem”, but: “how do we design a better experience?” So does this trigger a certain kind of: “what else are we doing wrong or how could we actually make this much better?”

Jeff: Yeah it triggers what we talked about earlier which was how do we change the experience and focus on the experience more than, you know, what we do in our process.

Ron: So “how do we stop these complaints” is like layer one then “actually is there a way to turn this into a positive experience? Maybe we’ll even get some compliments.”

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron: Good. And then you said and then there’s the issue – you didn’t use the term – but of recovery: how do we take the person who suffered a bad experience and actually turn them into an advocate?

Jeff: That’s right.

Ron: Or an ambassador?

Jeff: That’s right. That’s well you know I think what’s interesting is sometimes the customer who complains has a problem, has an issue and if that’s resolved very well becomes a more loyal customer than the one who’s just going along and everything works fine. And yet I think organizations missed that point: they can really leverage these clients or customers who are complaining, have a problem, have a breakdown to build them into real strong advocates.

Ron: Right.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron: But then you have to understand them as a real human being.

Jeff: You do and address them as a real human being, both the emotional as well as the practical.

Ron: Right.

Jeff: Yep.

Ron: Right, very good. So that that person who suffered at your hands could actually become someone that you say: “Got it we’re terribly sorry, let us fix it and we understood what mattered to you. Let us do something more.”

Jeff: That’s right. There’s a quick jump to: “That’ll cost us too much money” or, you know, it’s a financial decision of recovery, when really many customers want more of an emotional recovery.

Ron: Right.

Jeff: Or maybe the financial is worth the long-term investment.

Ron: Yeah. And the financial used to be called: “lifetime value of a customer”. You can keep that customer, but now we’re also realizing that there’s severe potential impact of not doing not just satisfy that person but actually let’s take really good care of them.

Jeff: Yeah.

Ron: Okay. I love your point Jeff about you know if somebody’s had a problem and you do a good job and you recover which is not just you recovering but your organization having a culture and your people understanding why we should and how we can, you can actually build that person who had a problem into one of your greatest ambassadors and advocates and people help to promote your organization.

Jeff: Yeah, that’s absolutely right.

Ron: Great we’ll be right back with number five.

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These are the links to watch Challenges 1, 2, 3, and 5:

Challenge 1: Setting Effective Service Standards

Challenge 2: Shifting from Service Process to Customer Experience

Challenge 3: Building Internal Service Relationships and Employee Engagement

Challenge 5: Aligning Leadership and Service Performance

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