Friday, November 26, 2010

Customer Feedback - The Silent Killer

imageThis article was written by Barry McKinley, SCORE Orange County Management Counselor

A year ago I had a SCORE client tell me I was negative to their business idea. First of all I am a very positive person, heck, I still believe in the “Tooth Fairy.”  But the client asked me my opinion so I told them.  The business they were considering was in an industry that 10 years ago had all but disappeared to the “Big Box” Stores.  I felt a moral obligation to this client that they should reconsider. Instead they became offended.  Unfortunately this month they are unwinding a very unsuccessful business and contemplating filing for bankruptcy.

What happens when a customer gives you feedback about your product or service?  In business I always welcomed feedback, positive or negative.  I am an outspoken person and will certainly let a company know if they have “wronged me,” but my wife is just the opposite, she won’t say a word! Of the two of us she is the most dangerous to businesses.  We will walk out of a business together and as soon as the door closes she will tell me I will never go back their again (she never has a problem voicing concerns to me!).  She is the “Silent Killer”!  As a business person you didn’t even know you had done something wrong.  There are a lot of “Silent Killers” walking around.  They are the ones who never complain – not a word.  Instead, they just never come back.  It has been said that a satisfied customer will tell 3 friends and an upset customer will tell 10 friends (or just about anybody who will listen!).

Upset one customer and you have to go out and find 9 new customers!

How do you prevent the “Silent Killers”?  First, listen to what you customers are telling you and your staff.  Be sure that your staff knows to make you aware of any upset customer or a customer complaint!  It is not fair nor is it smart business to allow your staff to deal with all the negative input.  Become a good listener when your customers are reporting concerns.  Don’t interrupt.  Be sure you understand what their problem is, resolve to the customers satisfaction immediately.  More importantly determine what the cause of the customer’s problem was and take immediate steps to remedy the problem and discuss with all staff members.  We all have a tenancy to see the world through our eyes but we must remember there are other ways to view the same picture.  Our vision or way may not be the best!

Send your customers thank you notes, with a brief survey.  I occasionally get companies who ask me to fill out a survey and it will only take 5 minutes.  My first response to them is to be considerate of my time.  In all the surveys I have used we asked 4-5 questions with a yes or no box to check, and then a space for comments.  We did not have the customer’s name on the survey card nor did we ask them for it.  All survey cards always came directly to me, “Personal and Confidential”.  This prevented employees from sheltering me from some of the problems.  Don’t be surprised if you only get 5-10% back, that is a normal response rate!

I always made it very clear to customers that without their input I was not in business.  This same message was discussed in every staff meeting.  We even had signs in the employees areas and bathrooms that said; “Our Customers Are Your Paycheck! . . . They Are The Boss!”

A business owner who doesn’t get feedback from his clients on a routine basis, is like the Ostrich that hides it’s head in the sand!  You certainly don’t see anything and you’ve got your butt in the air!