E G Neve Reveals Another Big Mistake: Ignoring Negative Feedback

June 9, 2014

I’ve been hitting some common notes the past couple of weeks on behalf of my Greater Philadelphia small business accounting clients:

Grumbling about the economy (and how it never helps us).
Bad advertising.
Bad measurement.

Well, let’s add another to the mix, shall we? Seems like an appropriate way, staring, as we are, down the barrel of the sultry Greater Philadelphia summer, and the hot (and occasionally grumpy) clients that come with it!

E G Neve Reveals Another Big Mistake: Ignoring Negative Feedback
“The key to successful leadership is influence, not authority.” – Kenneth Blanchard

Here’s a certain truth: Every Greater Philadelphia business, no matter how well-managed, will mess up.

You WILL have to deal with dissatisfied, even angry customers from time to time. Sometimes the customer is justified in his complaints … other times he is not, so what are you going to do about it?

Here’s the way many businesses handle it: ignore the problem, and blame the customer.Sure, during the fat 90’s and from 2003-early 2008, this might have been fine (plenty of other business out there, after all) … but in 2014 — in the age of social media, blogs, Yelp, etc., you MUST respond to the feedback you receive.

Shoot, I predict that you’ll find that what you thought was a disaster can be converted to an opportunity.

In fact, there’s oft-cited American Management Association (AMA) research into consumer behavior which indicates that the average satisfied customer tells three people about his experience but the average dissatisfied customer gripes to eleven other people. Negative word-of-mouth advertising is a problem few businesses can afford.

And with Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram, and Yelp and … you get the point), you could probably safely multiply that by a few tens.

So how will you respond to the customer with a complaint? I’ve already spoken about what NOT to do (ignore the customer, ignore the problem).
So, here are some trenches-tested steps. Feel free to post this around your biz:

1) Acknowledge that the person is upset. 
“I can see that you are mad” / “I could see that you’re upset with us.”

2) Make a positive reassuring statement. 
“I want you to know I will get something done about your problem.”

3) Make a sad/glad statement. 
“I’m sorry you had a problem but I’m glad that you called it to my attention.”

4) Ask the magic question: “What will make you happy?” 
You’ll often be quite surprised — in many cases, the dissatisfied customer will ask for something less in settlement than you would freely offer.

5) Make the settlement.
“Mr. Smith I’m truly sorry that you encountered this problem and I’m going to do exactly what you have requested. We want to keep you as a valuable customer!”

Simple as that!

But the sad fact is that by avoiding this simple process (and not training your employees to follow it, or not giving them the proper authority to do so), many Greater Philadelphia area businesses set themselves up for aggravating their most important asset: their clients.

Would you forward this article to a Greater Philadelphia business associate or client you know who could benefit from our assistance — or simply send them our way? While these particular articles usually relate to business strategy, as you know, we specialize in tax preparation and planning for Greater Philadelphia families and business owners. And we always make room for referrals from trusted sources like you.

Warmly (and until next week),

E G Neve
1-888-ASK-NEVE

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Email: eneve@nevegroup.com