A satisfied customer is wonderful news – they’re happy,they’re spending money, and hopefully telling their friends to spend money with you too. Their design was beautiful and their experience working with you was a joy. And your unsatisfied customers? Well, you must not have any! You never hear any complaints, so no news is good news, right? Unfortunately, no.
Unsatisfied Customers Stay Quiet
Research has found that, depending on the industry, between 50 and 90% of unsatisfied customers won’t tell the business they had a problem with. Although clients keeping complaints to themselves may sound like a dream, it’s not. What they may not be telling you, they’re telling other people – friends, family, neighbors, and anyone able to read Internet reviews. That’s your worst case scenario. Your best case scenario – they don’t spread their bad experience around, but they never come back to your business.
Why Don’t Customers Speak Up?
When we’re talking about customers who don’t speak up, we’re often talking about the people you want as repeat business. They’re not the kind who go on and on and on about every little accessory they hate. They just stay calm, go along with your ideas, and pray for the design process to end as quickly as possible. And when it does, you never hear from them again. You actually wish they would have spoken up so you can work with them again. So, what happened?
1. They’re too nice. – They like you, so they don’t want to hurt your feelings. They know that you’re a one person operation, and may be are the sole provider for your family. Or, that you’re just starting out and are still learning. Or, that you’re a better designer than you are business owner. Whatever it is, they allow you to finish your design, thank you for your time, and then start looking for another designer for their next project.
2. They’re afraid of the consequences. – Ever gotten cold soup but didn’t send it back because you were afraid it would return with spit in it? Well, same goes with your customers. Your customers can pretty safely assume you won’t spit on anything, but they may be afraid that you start taking a little less care with your designs, or become a little slower to respond to phone calls, or spend a little less time in your meetings with them. So, they just stay quiet because they figure, it’s just not worth the possible backlash.
3. They don’t think anything will change. – Ever told a family member to change one of their habits, and that just never happened? And you hesitate to tell them again? Same thing with your customers. They just think, why complain? Things will just stay the same and I’ll irritate my designer in the process.
4. It’s a lot of work. – Sometimes complaining/giving constructive criticism takes a lot of effort. Ever tried to write a business review online? You have to create an account, choose a username and password, put up a picture, all before you even get to the review. Why go through the hassle? And if you’re not even trying to get something in return, like an exchange or refund, it really isn’t worth it most of the time.
How to Get Your Customers to Complain
Although this sounds counterintuitive, you do want your customers to complain. Well, the good ones. This can mean the difference between being in business, and out of business. So, how do you get them to do just that? Let’s go through the best options.
1. Anonymous Survey – Try and give your customers multiple ways and opportunities for airing their concerns. One possibility, send client’s a link to fill out an anonymous survey mid-way through a project and at its completion. This will allow them to more comfortably provide you with any valuable feedback they may be thinking, but just don’t have the heart to tell you to your face. And if possible, even ask your assistant to send the survey link to give them that much more distance between you and them. You don’t want them to think of this as a time to hurt your feelings but instead as providing essential business feedback that can help you.
2. Ask them Leading Questions – Ask your clients throughout the project, what part of this design do you hesitate on? What part of this design process stresses you out? What about the design process did you think would go differently when we started? This way you’re actually asking the customer to just let you know their thoughts. It’s packaging them not as a complaint but as the thoughts running in their head. It takes the guilt off their shoulders and let’s them speak their mind a little bit more freely.
3. Let Them Know You Can Change – When you ask for feedback, in a survey or in person, first let your customers know that their thoughts bring valuable insight into your business. And even that in the past you’ve used customer feedbacks to make very useful changes, and if possible give a brief example (“I’d love your feedback, it really does help so much. In the past, I had a customer recommend that I send status updates every other week. I quickly implemented her suggestion and customers have really seemed to appreciate it.”) This lets them know that not only are their complaints going to be appreciated, but that they could actually bring beneficial change to your business. This is actually the number one reason I give feedback to businesses. If I know that my changes will really be considered, I go ahead with it. But if I know it won’t ever be considered, I don’t bother. So let them know you do make changes based on customer feedback.
Keep Your Customers Talking
If your business is struggling and you don’t know why, just talk to your customers. They are the ones who know what it’s like to work with you, they are the ones who know why your customers are unhappy, they are the ones who have valuable ideas on changes you need to make. Listen to them, and overtime, you might actually get excited to hear a customer complaint!
Let me know in the comments below what valuable feedback you’ve received from customers!
And if you’d like to get help making your business the one customers remember, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get started!