|Image courtesy of moon angel|
Haters are the early warning detection system for your business, much like a canary in a coal mine. So keep in mind that haters (canaries) are not the problem...
Ignoring them is.
The real problem for your business is the people who have a poor experience but are not passionate enough about you and your company to take the time to say something about it. They are the “meh” in the middle, and they are what kill businesses
One benefit of paying attention to feedback is the ability to glean insights about your business that can improve your operations and processes.
Frank Eliason understands how this works and has captained these programs for very large companies that attract a high volume of customer feedback, including the television and Internet access company Comcast, and Citi, where he served as the global director of the customer experience team. Eliason is also the author of the excellent book @ Your Service.
Solving problems creates value
“The best dollars and cents come when you start to make process improvements based on feedback. It’s harder to do with calls, and easier to analyze online. You can start to understand where your frustration points are and fix those. Each of those has a monetary value to them,” he says.
Kristen Kavalier, vice president of customer relations at NewBrand, the software tool employed by Le Pain Quotidien and hundreds of other businesses to find, analyze, sift, sort, and respond to customers across many online platforms, explains how this works: “To a certain extent, we’ll report on star ratings and rankings and averages, but mostly we throw them away in our analysis and actually look at the content itself. What was the actual verbatim commentary and how can we break that down, categorize it, and score it in a way that we can create structure and meaning and intelligence from it? How can we can aggregate it all, and provide our customer with something really actionable? We want to create some intelligence from all the noise that’s out there.”
Don’t take it personally
Square Cow Movers is a small, family-owned moving company based in central Texas with four locations. They handle long-distance and commercial moves, but the company’s core service is local residential moves, according to managing partner Wade Lombard.
As a small operator, haters hit Lombard hard. The tendency is to take complaints personally because he and his immediate family are so intertwined in the business. It's their life and their livelihood.
Lombard compares the emotional ties he has to his business to what he feels about his children. "I can go to my son's baseball game, and he can hit a home run, and I will feel like, man, that is my DNA, that is my offspring, I'm the best dad ever," he says. "And the very next day – this hasn't happened but it could – I can get a call from the principal who says, 'Hey, your son's in the office for disciplinary reasons,' and I'm so disappointed in whatever action he took to land there.”
“And it's similar with business,” Lombard says. “One day I can feel so proud of what we've been able to build and what we've been able to do. And the next day, one of our guys can do something silly, or a client can call and they can have a legitimate complaint. And I will be so down in the dumps, my emotional spectrum will just plummet. And so I think for responding to complaints the key is to try to take the emotion out of it and say to yourself, 'What can I learn from this?'"
Pay attention to patterns of misunderstandings
There are lots of details in the moving business and much back-and-forth with customers, who are already on edge due to the stresses inherent in any move. Square Cow Movers wasn't handling those communication details well, a fact Lombard discovered by paying attention to complaints.
"What we found in the reviews was that most of the issues people had with us were when people were unaware of what time we were going to get there, or they were unaware of certain rules or regulations related to moving. And so what we started to do is pick up on patterns. We found these patterns of misunderstandings, and said to ourselves, 'Okay, because this is a pattern, obviously we're not doing our part to communicate properly,'" he says.
Lombard and his team changed company policy and procedure as a result, adopting a policy known as "Over-communication is a myth." Today, the company goes out of its way to inform and educate customers multiple times throughout the moving process, and negative feedback based on misunderstandings has subsequently plummeted.
A catalyst for excellence
When you're able to analyze and act to improve your operations, complaints become not something annoying that have to be "dealt with" but rather massively valuable, free information that can be a catalyst for excellence.
Rather than trying to reduce the number of complaints and eliminate haters, you should instead encourage complaints and make customer feedback mechanisms as plentiful and simple as possible.
Drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: "This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.” Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.