Stratify Customer Complaints by Customer Type
Customer complaints are a daily reality, even for the companies that offer the best customer support. No company will ever be able to please everyone, but the companies that come the closest are those who understand that the company can never really be “right” and the customer “wrong” if the organization wants to retain that customer. The expression “The customer is always right” is frequently embraced by successful organizations and call center management.
Of course, customers DO sometimes get it wrong even if companies can’t say so. But they’re frequently right, and every successful organization needs a set of guidelines to determine how seriously to take complaints and how far forward to carry them. After all, some of these complaints may yield clues to gaps in business processes that need to be fixed. It helps to classify the complaints into “buckets,” according to Forbes’ Micah Solomon.
“Once you’ve done everything you can to pacify and appease this customer, the strategic question arises of whether their feedback should affect the way you do business in the future,” he wrote. “To answer this question, you’ll need to segment complaining customers into discrete groups, with the goal of understanding who is giving the feedback, and, therefore, what that feedback’s potential utility may be.”
Solomon recommends building three classifications for customers.
Mainstream customers, whose sensibilities and actions could be classified as “reasonable” or in line with a majority of your customers. These are people who get angry or upset over very reasonable issues, such as malfunctioning products, late shipping dates or overcharges.
Hypersensitive customers, who obsess over small details that most people don’t care about. (“The text on the instruction leaflet is a different color from last time I bought it” or “Exactly how many minutes is your broccoli steamed for?”)
Clueless customers or “shouldn’t be customers.” Micah notes that these are people whose responses and expectations are way outside the norm. This is the hotel guest who complains that the room’s furniture arrangements are messing with his energy vibrations, or the majority of restaurant customers who send wine back for being “corked.”
Obviously, it’s the first category of customers whose complaints need to be examined most closely. These are the people your business relies on. The second category, however, may also need some attention, since a single bad review can have reverberations that affect your mainstream customers.
“First, even though these customers are more sensitive than most, less-sensitive customers may be experiencing the same flaws in your operation at a sub-threshold level,” wrote Solomon. “Second, not every sensitive customer, hyper- or otherwise, is going to complain. This type of customer is used to being dismissed out of hand, and may now strive to avoid the risk of sounding unreasonable.”
And the third type of customer? While you may not want to spend too much time budgeting better chi in your future decorating schemes, it’s worth making an effort at the moment to at least pacify this type of customer.
“All customers, even the most clueless, deserve immediate pacification; don’t rebut them and tell them that the wine isn’t corked; get them some other kind of wine that’s more to their taste, and sell the rejected-but-delicious wine by the glass as a boon for your more-discerning customers,” wrote Solomon.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi