SALES

Want Great Customers? Ask for Complaints

If you're looking to improve your own team's skills, you need to ask your clients for ways you can improve.
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I was on a flight this week into Atlanta and, from a bulkhead seat, overheard a most unusual announcement.

The pilot addressed the first-class cabin with the following message:

I want to welcome you to this flight to Atlanta. We know because you are in first class that you are more than likely a regular customer and a frequent flier, and we are grateful for your business.

We also know that although you make up only 5% of our total flying customers, you comprise 85% of our complaints. We believe that is in part because you appreciate the value of our relationship and want to help us be better.

So, although your safety is our primary concern, your comfort is very important to us. I would ask that you help us to be better by telling any of our flight attendants before, during or after this flight if there is anything we can do to make your trip better. Also, after we have landed, if there is anything that I can do, please let me know, I’ll be here at the front to thank you as you exit.

Of course, if there is still a concern that has been unaddressed or a comment you would like to make, please fill out our customer feedback form in the seat pocket or go on-line. Welcome aboard and please enjoy your flight.

I travel a lot and sometimes even get bumped up to first class, but I have never heard a speech like this before. Candidly, it was surprising to me–and from my angle, it seemed that members of that cabin were a little surprised too.

It felt unforced, friendly, and sincere. My responses were:

  • “I think that this is going to be a good flight and we’ll be taken care of.”
  • “This captain and his team want my business and want me happy.”
  • “If there is an issue, I’ll let them know on this flight, rather than send an angry email or fill out a comment card. That will probably take care of things.”

Is No News Really Good?

It is easy to assume that if you do not hear anything, things are probably good. However, people can be silent out of either a timid disposition or a “get-along” culture. They may even think that they are being respectful by keeping things to themselves.

Recently I was speaking with a client who told me that one of my video programs had caused a lot of discussions and some disagreements on how to handle a scenario I described in the video. His question to his team was, “Did anybody call Tom and ask him?” The answer was no.

I was really surprised. This is a group with whom I have a great relationship and regular conversation, yet, no one told me of their issue.

Asking for Feedback

It is not enough to have feedback mechanisms in place, an open door policy or a well-trained customer service staff. If you want to keep customers happy and grow loyalty, you need to solicit feedback actively from your customers. I think that the example from the pilot is a good example.

For myself, I have a meeting in a couple of weeks with my client’s staff and I am going to open up the feedback conversation. As the leader of my client company said: “Tom, we want you to get better. It is no favor or friendship to you to not tell you what will make you better. But, we are sometimes a little reserved, so you will have to encourage us.”

Great feedback. Great client.

IMAGE: Flickr
Last updated: Mar 19, 2012

TOM SEARCY | Columnist | Founder, Hunt Big Sales

Author, speaker, and consultant Tom Searcy is the foremost expert in large account sales. With Hunt Big Sales, he has helped clients land more than $5 billion in new sales. Click to get Searcy's weekly tips, or to learn more about Hunt Big Sales.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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