Monday, October 25, 2010

After the sale is over.

Post 576 - "One of the surest signs of a bad or declining relationship is the absence of complaints by customers. Nobody is ever THAT satisfied over an extended period of time," according to Theodore Levitt, who was the editor of the Harvard Business Review and was considered one of the world's greatest marketing experts.

While many of us cringe at the thought of our customers and clients complaining about our products and services, those complaints are, in reality, the lifeblood of our business relationships. Consider these findings from McKinsey, the global consulting firm:

* Customers who have major problems but don't complain about them have a re-purchase intention rate of about nine percent.

* Those who do complain, regardless of the outcome, have a repurchase intention rate of approximately 19 percent.

* Customers who have a complaint resolved have a repurchase intention rate of 54 percent.

* Customers who have their complaints resolved quickly have a repurchase intention of 82 percent.

Note that simply feeling comfortable enough to complain more than doubles repurchase rates - and further note what a tremendous opportunity results when customers can quickly resolve issues that bother them. Levitt points out that customers are either not being candid or haven't been contacted when they don't complain - probably both. An absence of candor reflects the decline of trust and the deterioration of relationships. Impaired communication is both a symptom and cause of trouble. Bad things accumulate. Things fester and get worse. When they finally erupt, it's usually too late or too costly to correct the situation.

Handling complaints properly allows you to turn lemons into lemonade. Here's how:

* When you have irate clients or customers, address the complainants face-to-face and LISTEN! Avoid being defensive and THANK the customers for bringing these matters to your attention.

* Be proactive in seeking feedback. Tell the customers how anxious you are to improve service, and that their feedback would be very helpful. AT&T once had a slogan: "If it's an emergency to you, it's an emergency to us." This meant that even if customers didn't think the complaint was that important, it was probably very important. Otherwise, why would they bring it up?

* A more significant problem or opportunity than complaining customers are the "irate customers." An irate customer is frustrated because previous complaints haven't been successfully resolved. Yet, these customers are still giving you the chance to resolve their problems.

Similar to seeking out and resolving complaints with existing customers is the process of seeking out and resolving objections in the sales process. Objections here are important buying signals. Like the complaining customers, the objecting prospects are inviting you to show them why they should buy from you. If the prospects have no interest in your product or service, they'd terminate the sales call. By raising objections, the customers are looking to get further information to justify a buying decision. By encouraging these objections, you gain valuable insight into the customers' needs.

So don't ever feel smug when customers don’t complain. Because when they stop complaining, that's when you're most likely to get in trouble!

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