“Silent customers can be deadly. Encourage them to complain”. – Ron Kaufman
The power of customer silence must never be underestimated and can never be overemphasized. The fact is that despite best efforts, there are bound to be repeated lapses in customer service, flaws in products and something about the company that will tick customers off. Most companies assume that even with these errors if customers are not complaining, the errors might not mean anything. Customer silence in most cases just means that they are not concerned with complaining or providing feedback, but will rather switch their business to another company – most likely the closest competitor. Many such instances of customer silence can kill your business. Research from a number of sources has revealed that a company that receives one complaint regarding poor service, probably has at least 24 other customers who would have received the same but did not complain. Their silence simply means that they do not want to make the effort since they believe that it would not help.
Customer silence does not mean that the customer is happy or even satisfied with the service and offerings of your company. A survey revealed that customer churn is never sudden or even over a short period but is the result of many poor experiences built up over time. Assuming that customer silence means that they are happy – you could be killing your business. There could be many reasons that contribute toward the deadly silence and if your company is not making it easy for the customers to complain, it could be headed downhill. Ensure that customers know how and to whom they can put forth their grievances and that when they do complain they receive a prompt response and speedy resolution. It is even more infuriating when the customer service channels do not work or when no one responds despite the complaints.
Many companies assume that customer silence means that all is good because it is not easy or comfortable to hear criticism. However, without asking the customers, specific and clear questions a company would never receive clear answers that would allow them to improve their offerings and bring them to a standard that meets the customer’s expectations. Customer silence means that your company is irritating the customers to a point where they do not want to provide feedback. A company then would need to depend on external agencies to conduct research for them to ascertain customer mind-set – an unnecessary expense. It is imperative that a company consistently reaches out to its customers since this effort is less cumbersome and less expensive than trying to attract new customers.
Customers now are more aware and demanding than ever before. They know what they want and know that they can get it. Customer service has risen in ranking – poor customer service would be reason enough for customers to take their business elsewhere. Customer silence can prove fatal since not only would your company have lost a possible loyal and profitable customer but also they make it a point to let their friends, associates and others know about the poor experiences. This is in turn could have a negative impact on your company’s potential customer base. With the surge of the internet and social media sites, broadcasting bad news is now a matter of seconds and will reach thousands of people in a single instance. Even if your company experiences customer silence, you can be sure that they will not remain silent and will share their negative experiences with everyone.
Does your company take customer silence into cognizance or do you believe that no complaints means that your company is tops with its customers? In order to ensure that your company does not face the deadly customer silence, each person in the organization must be trained to understand the impacts of customer service on the company’s success. As mentioned earlier, service is now one of the top priorities of customers and they are willing to pay up to 11% more in order to receive top class service. Each employee must undertake training and coaching in customer service practices and have the requisite skills and knowledge base that would enable them to respond adequately to customers. Customers are not expected to know where their query lands in the company – wherever it does, that touch-point must be able to provide easy, convenient and effective service. As customers begin to perceive this awareness and commitment, they will be more open and responsive.
In an earlier exposition, we mentioned that it must be easy for a company to connect with and do business with a company. Every company would have a set of policies, rules and procedures in order to have some structure and to protect its interests. However, these rules must not be encumbrances in serving customers – if the customer interfacing teams are tied down, they will not be able to make decisions on the spot in favour of customers. It is important that they be empowered to decide instantly, which will make it easier for customers to do business with the company. The very basis of customer service is about making things easier and simpler for customers.
As the quote above states – customers must be able to complain. This is preferable to customer silence that could lead them to a competitor. Ensure that your company is known for listening and responding to its customers. Their feedback must reflect in your company’s operations and offerings – this makes customers feel heard, important and valued. With time, this leads to trust and openness, taking your company further and further away from the deadly customer silence.
Without the cooperation and dedication of each person in the organization, serving customers would become an uphill task and would ultimately fail. Each person must have a role in contributing to creating positive customer experiences, thereby contributing to the success of the company. The fact is that if a company has no customers, it will not last and without a favour. Customers are quick to perceive the culture and values of a company and only those companies that can consistently match their expectations will receive business. Customer silence cannot exist in a company that delights its customers each time – they will respond by providing repeat business and by letting others know, thereby attracting more business for the company. Customer service must never be a reaction – instead a company must make every effort to understand its customers such that it can proactively respond to their needs and swiftly make amends to any service or product lapses. Every lapse or error must be used as an opportunity to delight and impress a customer. Research has proven that customers become more loyal if their complaints and issues were resolved swiftly, easily and with the most customized solutions. Your company will never face the dreaded customer silence if customers consistently receive such service and proactive recovery of issues.
Despite all these factors (and many more), companies still fail at making it easy for customers to complain and continue to give customers reason to complain. They avoid customer feedback because it implementing suggestions or even listening is perceived as tough and highly avoidable tasks. The teams primarily responsible for customer satisfaction are afraid to let senior leadership ‘hear’ stories of their incompetence and hence many complaints go unattended, and over time lead to customer silence and churn. It is important to treat customers, right. If they take the trouble to provide feedback – even if it is negative, they must be thanked for doing so since it means that they are still interested in doing business with your company. However, a drop in complaints is not always a positive sign – it most probably is an indication that your company has exhausted the customer’s patience and now customer silence is all they have left. Before your company can react, these silent ones will walk over to your competitors – causing significant damage to your business. Are you listening to the customer silence?
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