Are you battling grumpy customers, low-vitality products, overcrowded services, and a dwindling bottom line? You most emphatically do not have to. Why does this happen?
One significant reason is that consumers expect products and services to perform exactly as advertised, without ambiguity or error. It is easy to see why these expectations exist, given our own consumer status. If given the choice between something that is simple to use and functions properly and something that is difficult to use or does not function properly, we will always choose the former.
What will consumers do if they are dissatisfied with the quality of their experiences? Unless it is a catastrophic situation, will they contact you to inform you of the situation and how to resolve it? Perhaps some will, in order to vent their frustrations over their recent experiences. However, research indicates that the vast majority of customers will quietly move their business elsewhere, and you may never learn why.
To assist you in putting an end to the silent exodus, this article suggests four methods for determining the source of “customer hassles.”
To Begin, Why Do Customer Complaints Occur?
You would think that any business that provides a product or service would put themselves in their customers’ shoes and thus provide the best product or service possible. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, particularly in markets with little competition. Nonetheless, even when product and service providers have the best of intentions, another pervasive issue exists…
Any product (such as tools, gadgets, or software systems) or service (such as auto repair shops, telephone companies, or transportation businesses) can impose additional complexity on consumers by introducing their own complex requirements.
These requirements may include queuing time, waiting time, installing or upgrading something, setting things up, programming in some cases (consider your VCR), learning curves, maintenance, wrestling with bugs, troubleshooting, and possibly much, much more.
These are all examples of customer-related headaches of varying degrees of severity. When these additional requirements accumulate, regardless of how “good” your product or service is, hassles can have a negative impact on your customers’ experiences with your offerings. These are just a few of the attributes:
— Hassles can range from something minor and mildly annoying to rendering the product or service unusable for its intended purpose. They have the ability to drive customers insane or make them feel extremely angry or stupid.
— In the worst-case scenario, customer headaches can have a cascading effect, affecting an ever-widening circle of people, circumstances, and/or operations.
— No amount of bargain-basement pricing can ever make up for the worst inconveniences!
What Is the Cure?
In comparison, what would you like to see occur? You would like to have offerings that are free of headaches and attract loyal customers, correct? Good! There are numerous reasons why you might desire that.
According to customer retention research, the cost of retaining loyal customers is only one-fifth the cost of acquiring new ones. Additionally, research indicates that businesses can boost their bottom lines by up to 100% simply by increasing customer loyalty by 5%!
Thus, in order to retain customers, we must eliminate headaches and strive to create consistently pleasant experiences across all customer interactions. Interactions may include visiting a Web site or storefront, requesting additional information, making a purchase, receiving order shipments, interacting with the products or services themselves, utilizing any training and documentation, and contacting customer service, among others. Bear in mind that a negative experience at any point along the way can undermine a customer’s positive perceptions of all subsequent interactions!
Suggestions for Resolving Customer Complaints
Therefore, let us discuss how you can ascertain the source of your customers’ annoyances. The following are four recommendations for disclosing this critical information:
1. Conduct customer surveys via Web, mail, or e-mail, or via support calls.
You might inquire about what your customers appreciate and dislike about your products and services, as well as how they might suggest ways to improve them. You might even consider expanding routine customer support calls by asking customers, “Is there anything else you can think of that would help our products or services assist you better?” Customers may find it extremely liberating to finally air their grievances.
2. Sift through your technical support logs in search of annoyances of all kinds.
What has been truly vexing your customers or preventing them from completing a task? Determine what types of trends you can identify. For instance, are people contacting technical support primarily to receive training on how to use the system? Are they having difficulty installing, configuring, or getting started? Are they submitting bug reports? Are the instructions obtuse or perplexing? Another way to look at this is to inquire why your system is not completely transparent in terms of assisting customers in achieving their true objectives.
3. Observe your customers in their own facilities while they are using your products.
It may be eye-opening to watch your customers attempt to install, configure, learn, and troubleshoot your product without assistance. If you intended for your products to be self-explanatory and simple to use, this may reveal several areas where they fall short.
4. Using the 80:20 rule, prioritize your findings.
Determine which 20% of hassles (the “vital few”) appear to be causing your customers to experience 80% of the pain. Then, gradually eliminate the heaviest hitters until everything is reduced to background noise. It is easier said than done, but your customers will truly appreciate it in the long run!
In conclusion, identifying and resolving vexing customer issues can help you halt the exodus of cranky customers and begin building a base of “raving fans.” Your customers deserve nothing less than the best experiences possible across all aspects of your offerings.