How Complaining Customers Can Become Your Business’ Best Friends

By Alex Zlatin

Dealing with customer complaints isn’t a business owner’s favorite task, but that sometimes stressful part of running a company can provide opportunities to improve the business for the long run, experts say.

“Turning those complaints into positives depends largely on two factors,” says Alex Zlatin, CEO of Maxim Software Systems (www.alexzlatin.com). “One, how well business owners and their team handle unhappy customers directly one-on-one, and two, devising solutions for specific customer issues that keep coming up.” 

In terms of direct customer service, studies show complaining customers could end up being some of a business’ best customers. Harvard Business Review found that those who have a complaint handled in under five minutes spend more on future purchases.

As for developing long-term solutions for common problems customers bring up, Zlatin says a business should make a habit of documenting all customer complaints, then discuss those issues as a team. Another way, he adds, is to send out customer surveys that include a wide range of questions geared to improving the company’s processes and customer service.

”The bottom line is, the way a business handles its customer complaints determines its success or failure in an increasingly competitive marketplace,” Zlatin says. “Businesses that turn complaints into opportunities for building closer relationships with customers are the ones that are most likely to grow and prosper. Prompt and systematic handling of customer complaints has a positive impact on the major business areas.”

Zlatin says dealing with customer complaints effectively can help a business in the following ways:

Earns customer loyalty. When customers tell you about a problem they’ve had with your company, they expect you to correct it – and if you do, they might show their appreciation with future purchases. “If you don’t correct it promptly,” Zlatin says, “there’s a good chance you will lose them. Show you care by being patient, listening, asking questions and getting all the information possible to make it right. They’ll see that you truly want them to have a valued experience, and this will make them more likely to stay loyal to your business.”

Attracts more customers. Ignoring customer complaints altogether or putting them on low priority can cost a business dearly. “Annoyed customers might share  a bad experience on social media or in person, turning potential buyers away,” Zlatin says. “But if you use customer complaints to make several positive changes in your business, current customers will notice and perhaps be your best recruiters. Your customer base will see that your business is more efficient, resulting in a better overall experience, and leading to referrals.”

Boosts overall performance. “Taking action based on customer complaints helps you improve your processes,” Zlatin says. “Issues you otherwise might not have realized you had will no longer hold your business back. Anything customers tell you will provide insight into how you can better meet their needs, operate more efficiently, and grow your business.”

“Don’t take customer complaints personally,” Zlatin says. “But do take them seriously. If you don’t, they’ll think you don’t value their business or opinions. Before long, you won’t be complaining about customers’ complaints, but about having fewer customers.”

About Alex Zlatin

Alex Zlatin, author of the book Responsible Dental Ownership (www.alexzlatin.com), had more than 10 years of management experience before he accepted the position of CEO of dental practice management company Maxim Software Systems. He earned his MBA at Edinburgh Business School and a B.Sc. in Technology Management at HIT in Israel. His company helps struggling dental professionals take control of their practices and reach the next level of success with responsible leadership strategies.