Monday, January 4, 2010

Listen to your Customers!

"The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value".

Charles Dudley Warren

I was recently in a restaurant and went to use the bathroom. When I walked into the bathroom the floor was flooded with over a half inch of water. I went out and told the owner about the water, and I could see how angry he was at me for just telling him about this very critical problem. He knew he had to deal with both the mess and potential damages from this water and he was not a happy camper. However, he should have been so grateful of my comments as it alerted to problem before it got much worse and he had the opportunity to alert other clients.

This entrepreneur should have thanked me for this information but I am sure he was cussing me in his mind out for the inconvenience that I was causing him. He just did not realize how important negative customer comments could be.

There are three types of input that an entrepreneur receives from their customers. First, there is the good and great comments from customers which are wonderful to see but really do not add much new in information but they are great to receive. Negative comments are the real nuggets since they give each entrepreneur new information about something that is not working in their business. Finally, there are people who have things to say about your business but choose not to come back or give you a chance to correct the problem.

Negative comments are golden opportunities that you cannot afford to ignore for two reasons. First they give you chance to correct a problem before it gets worse and second these negative comments give you an opportunity to salvage the customer before they decide not to come back to your business. An upset customer that you can convert normally becomes a very strong supporter of your business.

In order to receive valid customer you must be listening to what customers are saying and what they are doing. One CEO of a bank, purposely kept his office just to side of the bank’s main floor so he could see and hear what his customers were saying about his bank. By keeping the office close to the main floor, he was telling all of the bank’s customers that he cared about their opinions and wanted their input especially the negative comments.

The most troubling customer comments are those that just leave and do not tell us what the problems are but tell so many of their friends and relatives about our failings. While these are comments are difficult to capture, they are the most valuable. The best way to get this information is to go out of your way to contact customers that have not come back recently or those that might not have renewed a contract with your business. Additionally, customer satisfaction surveys are a great way to solicit customer comments from those customers that would not directly tell us about problems they have incurred.

Listening to your customers both those that tell you directly and information that you might have to solicit are golden nuggets that you have to really appreciate and value.

Now go out and make sure you have a system to encourage customers to comment about your business paying so much attention to the negative comments. Additionally, make sure you have a system in place to collect information from customers who have left your business.

You can do this!

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