One of many insightful quotes from Bill Gates offers powerful advice for business owners: "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." Taking steps to turn customer complaints into opportunities not only creates happy customers, but also helps stem customer churn, drive ROI, and build brand loyalty.
For example, this week I called customer service to address issues with my internet and cell phone -- and, hopefully, refund some fees. In both cases, customer service did nothing for me. Despite agreeing that the providers were to blame, the representatives lacked the authority and discretion to address the issues. In both cases, these billion-dollar companies empowered their agents with only a handful of ways to act, and none of them fixed the problems. I was left frustrated.
In 2019, market research firm Forrester reported that companies that lead in customer experience outperform laggards by nearly 80 percent. No surprise there. In my experience, companies that work to improve customer experience also see an increase in revenue. So why do so many businesses drop the ball on customer service? Perhaps because they see complaints as issues to be dealt with, instead of opportunities to grow and improve.
But as a seed-stage investor and startup founder, I see complaints as opportunities to learn, build relationships, and leverage end-user insights. So how do I suggest startups in our portfolio deal with complaints? Start with these seven tips.
1. Make it your job.
Before your startup reaches scale, you have a lot to work out. Customer feedback, particularly complaints, can help you stay focused on what matters. For this reason, I always suggest founding teams choose an individual to consistently deal with complaints and report back. This also ensures you are hearing the information directly from your customers.
2. Welcome complaints.
Give customers a direct line to you. Post on your website, and in other customer contacts, that you welcome and appreciate their feedback. Remember, it is always better to hear from a customer with a complaint than to let them simply stop being a customer. Jeff Bezos once famously tested his own customer service to find out firsthand what kind of services his customers were experiencing.
3. Make it easy.
When unhappy customers struggle to complain, they usually just end up frustrated. They might even give up on your company, without your ever knowing the reason. But when a customer finds it easy to complain, it provides you with valuable insight into the problem -- and you have a second chance to make things right. My favorite new way to make it easy is to include a "live chat" function on your website, often powered by chatbots. That way digital agents can handle the majority of customer issues.
4. Track every complaint.
This not only ensures complaints get addressed, but also helps when it comes to data mining. Track how long it takes to resolve each issue and how often similar issues arise. Remember, we measure what matters, and what matters, we measure. So if complaints matter, track and measure them. It's not only about making sure each is dealt with in a timely manner, but also that you learn from each one.
5. Share what you learn.
Communicate with your team regularly about the complaints coming in and how they were resolved. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and is better prepared to handle common issues with ease.
6. Make it right.
You, not your customer service agents, are the business. You have the ability and power to make it right and should be willing to do anything to make that happen. Always be willing to go that extra mile for your early adopters.
7. Be transparent.
Don't hesitate to post a common complaint and the solution to your FAQs, since it is unlikely that a given person complaining is the only one with this issue. By posting solutions, you can not only cut down on future complaints, but also show that you care about serving your customers -- which will encourage loyalty.