How Should CEO’s React to Complaints?

Department Of Customer Defense: No Unhappy Customers Left Behind

Dealing with Customer complaints that make it to senior executives is a critically important strategy, one that most companies Image-Study-of-customers-service-management-groupfail miserably at in three ways:

  1. Not creating a CEO communication strategy nor giving it the attention it deserves when a Customer does make the effort to contact the head of the company.
  2. Making it impossible for Customers to ever be able to get in touch with the CEO/President.
  3. And too often, when someone does get in touch with the CEO, the CEO makes it worse.  See PWC, Lululemon, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines.
How Accessible Are You?

It is incomprehensible to me how many corporate offices and senior management teams are totally inaccessible or to often do not handle it well when dealing with the Customer. Service Management Group did a study and found that only 35 percent of Customers where highly satisfied with the service recovery of senior leadership, due to them making excuses, spinning it, and insulting the Customer by not validating their challenge.

However, there are exceptions. Umpqua Bank, based in Portland, Oregon, is aggressive at inviting Customer feedback. If you have a question or comment and want to take it right to the top, every location has a phone in the lobby, with a sign next to it that reads, “Let’s talk”. Pick it up and you get CEO Ray Davis’s office. You can pick up the phone and tell him what you think the bank is doing right and what you think it can do better, or you can ask him anything you’d like.

Another great example of an owner who remains accessible is Mark Cuban, the billionaire owner of the NBA Dallas Mavericks. Cuban discusses his Customer service philosophy in his blog “Connecting to your Customers”. In it, Cuban shares one of his favorite quotes: “Treat your Customers as if they own you . . . because they do. You have to re-earn your Customers business every day.” Cuban also points out his unique perspective on being accessible:

It’s interesting to watch different CEOs of different companies and how they deal with the issue of making customers happy. You can tell the ones that don’t trust their products or services. They protect themselves from any possible interactions, whether direct, phone, or email, by having secretaries filter everything, and they respond with form letters or assistants, if at all.

I don’t know how they do it. I make my email available to everyone and anyone. Not only that, and more importantly, I make sure that all the customer service emails get forwarded to me. If someone is complaining, I want to know what about, and I want to get it fixed quickly. The best focus groups are your customers telling you what they think. No company is perfect, but the CEO who doesn’t listen to direct feedback from customers will not take the company as far as it can go.

How refreshing! And what a great role model Cuban is for all senior management. Get out from behind your desk and talk to some Customers.

Are You Getting Enough Complaints?

Think about the last several times you had a disappointing experience as a Customer. Did you tell anyone at the company? You image-with-customer-service-quotesleft a business frustrated or hung up the phone more stressed than before you called. If you are like most people, you don’t bother to waste your time, sharing your displeasure with anyone at the business that disappointed you. Why? Because most Customers don’t think anyone really cares, no one really wants to hear about it, or they think you are trying to get away with something. So why would a Customer want to waste the time? How often does this play out in your business, Customers leaving unhappy without letting anyone know?

If we are not making it easy for our Customers to give feedback, then it is happening to us more than any of us realize. Our Customers have better things to do with their time than hunt us down and complain and then feel that it didn’t make a difference.

Give Permission And Make It Easy For Them To Share

There are several ways to give permission to our Customers to communicate with us. Now, I am not talking about Customer measurement devices that ask Customers their level of satisfaction and how likely they are to refer. While that is vitally important, what I am referring to is something totally different. I’m talking about giving your Customers permission to communicate easily, in a nonthreatening way, and not only giving them permission, but also asking for their advice and their feedback, both positive and negative. Few companies ask their Customers for praise, and lose the opportunity to celebrate and perpetuate outstanding performance. However, even fewer companies have the courage to ask their Customers for feedback if their experience was below what they were expecting.

It is so simple. It is just marketing to your Customer on everything: invoices, orders, emails, at checkout, on the website, even in restrooms. Here are some examples of what companies have used:

“Please tell us about your experience. It is very important for us to know how we are doing.”“We want your advice on how we can be better.”

“Did we hit the mark today? Tell us. Did we miss? Tell us, please!”

“Was someone a hero for you today? We want to recognize them.”

“Were we the best part of your day? If you can’t answer yes, we need to know why.”

Watch this 1 minute video on why ‘No Problem’ is a Big Problem
About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.

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