There's A Bright Side to Unhappy Customers? Absolutely

March 25, 2015

By: Kimberly Hazen - BBB Wisconsin

A few weeks back, some friends from out of town joined me in Madison for a birthday celebration. We chose one of my favorite downtown restaurants and order up wine, lobster bisque, Wagyu steak and high expectations. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our table was just jinxed. Our poor waitress just couldn't seem to get things right but since I was enjoying the company of lifelong friends, I wasn't too annoyed. In fact, if it weren't for one brazen gal, the waitress would have never known we were unhappy. According to a 2012 Better Business Bureau study, only 28% of unhappy customers actually tell the company. In addition, 30% of those customers will simply not return to the business. Can you imagine losing 30% of your customers ...and never knowing why?

It's all about expectations

If you were able to listen to complaint calls to the BBB, you wouldn't have to listen long to hear a pattern. Every unsatisfying customer experience can be boiled down into one concept: expectations. What the business offered them wasn't good enough, fast enough, cheap enough or easy enough. And the yardstick that customer is measuring the business against is their own expectations. Once your business understands this, you're golden.

So how do you match expectations to reality?

One of the easiest ways to prevent an unhappy customer, is to be completely transparent in your business dealings. Forget the fine print. Instead, clearly explain exactly what's going to happen. Of course you want to include best-case-scenarios (who wouldn't want to hear the cabinets could be ready in as little as 4 weeks), but also explain what would be typical. In fact, it may be in your best interest to emphasize the longest delivery time and the highest price. Because under promising gives you a better shot at over delivering. Meet or exceed expectations and guess who ends up the hero of our story. You guessed it: your business.

Despite your best efforts, the customer is unhappy

Donald Porter, VP of British Airways is quoted regularly for explaining, "Customers don't expect you to be prefect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong." To see the bright side, just imagine that inside each unhappy customer, there is a lifelong, loyal customer waiting to come out. You should rather think of a messed up customer experience as an opportunity you wouldn't have had if the transaction had been uneventful.

Here's how to fix what's wrong

On the BBB complaint form, we ask the question, "What do you think the company should do to resolve the complaint?" You'd be surprised to know that many times the customer simply wants an apology. That's great news for you because apologies are free. So you can use them without breaking your budget.