Encourage Customers to Complain: A Non-Intuitive Customer Loyalty Program

That’s right. Encourage your customers to complain. Give them multiple channels to do it in.  Let’s face it, as we have repeatedly heard, customers are talking about you whether you listen or not, so you may as well reap the benefit.

And there are benefits to customer complaints. The biggest benefit is that a complaining customer who has his or her problem solved will actually be more loyal than a customer who never had any problems. In fact, that other customer with no problems is the least loyal.

My opinion is that if a customer doesn’t complain when he has a problem he simply isn’t invested enough in the product to put effort into fixing it. He would rather throw it in a closet and simply buy another from someone else. If he isn’t interested in fixing it, he certainly isn’t  interested in making recommendations to others.

In fact, a TARP study showed that complaining customers who had their problem fixed were likely to tell 5 others. Customers who had no problems were only likely to tell 3 others. Probably those who had problems and didn’t complain just left.

Other benefits include having patterns and trends to study because now you have data. You can do root cause analysis and fix the problems once and for all. Maybe analysis will pinpoint a code problem, a manufacturing problem, or a problem with a certain vendor. You want to know about that, right?

Part of the heavy lifting of encouraging and listening to customer complaints is that the data is often not structured. It can be fractured, incomplete. You need tools to aggregate the feedback before attempting to analyze it. And this type of data gathering, analysis, and resolution activity must be part of the culture of your business.

If your engineers, software designers, or other  employees think supporting an already released product is boring rather than seeing it as a chance to improve, trying to get those analyses completed can be frustrating. It must be made clear that this is an expectation of the position. We all like to make new toys rather than fix broken old ones, but it needs to be done.

Those of you who are required to elicit or record feedback and show due diligence in fixing any problems due to regulatory requirements have extra incentive in encouraging this type of culture. Not only does it help you give great service, it keeps you from expensive fines and audits.

To recap:

  1. Encourage your customers to complain.
  2. Fix the problem.
  3. Repeat. 

Anyone have some success stories that are examples of listening to your customers? Leave them in the comments. We would love to hear from you.


Thanks to the 1to1 In Action White Paper: “The Time for Multichannel is Now”. 1to1 Media, a division of Peppers and Rogers Group.

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