Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
I worked with someone from Britain a few years ago, and I was often shocked at how honest he was.
I used to tease him and compare him to Simon Cowell, the infamous direct communicator – which he did not find very humorous.
Anyway, I learned that cultural honesty and being very direct are just a communication difference between us.
He would often point out, in a tease, how Americans are so polite (ok in general) and tiptoe around the obvious, making it difficult to truly understand what someone is thinking or not thinking.
This cultural reality can be challenging, particularly when you are trying to understand the customer experience.
Customer research suggests that 96% of people won’t bother to file a complaint with a business.
Some don’t like conflict because they don’t have the energy, and some don’t care enough.
That means that only 4% of people who have a bad experience with an organization will tell you about it.
The worst thing about these statistics is that people who have a bad experience may not tell you, but they definitely tell others.
People now use social media to vent frustrations and disclose what customer service irritants are with a business at an alarming rate. So why would you not want to know what your customers – the people paying your bills – are thinking about the product or service you provided them?
7 Things Most Customers Won’t Tell You
1. Dirty Facility
A lot of organizations lose sight of an aging, tired-looking, or outdated facility. However, a customer will notice it the minute he walks in the door.
Nicked-up walls, stained carpets, dirty glass, and filthy restrooms are just examples of the facility issues that customers contend with – but organizations often neglect.
How often have you gone into a restroom and there are no paper towels, soap, or even worse, toilet paper?
Or how often have you walked in the door of a business and there was just a foul odor? These are all things that customers notice, but business owners become immune to them.
2. Rude Employees
Rude employees can be a detriment to any organization. I left a physician who I had gone to for 30+ years because of rude and incompetent employees.
What is unfortunate is he never asked me why I left, so I never told him. I have complained about rude employees in the past, but only when they are off the charts inappropriately.
The ones who are simply dismissive, inattentive, and socially awkward don’t usually warrant a direct complaint.
3. A Bad Website
A company’s website is the window to the world in today’s competitive environment, and there is no excuse for having a slow, disorganized, and confusing website.
Gone are the days when it costs tens of thousands of dollars to have a nice website.
This website costs the price of a domain and annual hosting fees. There are lots of free software available, so there are no more excuses.
I went to the website of someone I know recently to purchase a product from a registry and was shocked at how poorly designed the site was and how difficult it was to navigate.
I should probably tell her, but I probably won’t.
4. Process Improvement Opportunities
Customers walk through the processes that companies lay out for them and are the best people to identify the system’s flaws.
Most customers will accept the process as is and tolerate it if the end product is worth the frustration but will rarely say anything.
For example, if your website is difficult to navigate, but there is a product that the customer is looking for, they may spend the time trying to find the right page but won’t necessarily tell you how difficult it was.
This is why it is important to find an objective person to walk through all customer processes to ensure they are user-friendly and easy to navigate.
5. What Others Are Saying About You
Have you ever had someone tell you about a bad experience with an organization?
When that happens, you know first-hand service challenges, and even though you may use that same company, you probably won’t say anything to them.
Another example is social media. The way people have (sometimes unfairly) posted negative comments about a business without that business even knowing about it – at least until they read it online.
Those kinds of public relations nightmares are difficult to mend but are so important to know about!
Google your company name and scroll to see if there are any negative comments or ratings about you. If there are, contact the person and try to make amends!
6. A Competitor is Doing the Same Thing for Cheaper and Faster
The competition today is relentless.
As soon as you think you have a competitive edge, someone comes along and figures out a better, faster, cheaper way of delivering the same product. This makes it very challenging for businesses to compete.
Customers will probably not bother telling you that a competitor beat you out – they will simply disappear and spend their money elsewhere.
Find out who your competitors are and follow what they are doing. You may learn something!
7. When They Have a Great Experience
I’ve had many great experiences with businesses, and I rarely tell them, but I tell other people who need the same product or service.
This is particularly true for the countless new online businesses that are catering to small business owners.
I love sharing a cool website or product that I have discovered that makes my life easier.
You know, the old word-of-mouth theory really is the best way to acquire new customers. And guess what? It’s free if your product and service can “wow” the customer!
Ok, we’ve identified those things that most customers won’t tell you. Still, we now need to help you figure out how to encourage customers to share their experiences (good and bad), so you can try to fix what’s broken, create products that customers want, and use customer testimonies to encourage new customers.
So the question is, how can you find this kind of information from your customers?
Host a Customer Focus Group
Customer focus group interviews are a great way to hear specifics on what customers like, dislike, and ideas for new products and services.
Allow these customers to ask questions to see what you learn.
Get a random group of customers in a room and get them talking. Make them feel comfortable, feed them, and you might be amazed at what you learn!
Customer Satisfaction Survey
Customer satisfaction surveys can provide the data to identify what is working and what needs to be adjusted on services and products.
It also provides correlations between what the customer values and their intent to continue using products and services.
There are lots of survey software available.
Customer Comment Cards
I don’t know about you, but I have the best feedback while I’m in the middle of the purchasing experience.
It is important to capture that immediate perception of services, products, or customer experience. These responses often have customer questions about products and services that you may not be aware of.
Customer comment cards provide immediate customer feedback and capture consumer responses while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind.
This is a great opportunity to identify those things that affect the immediate experience of the customer.
Relationships really are the name of the game, and interacting with customers regularly sends the message that you care, making them feel valued.
I don’t think I’ve ever dined in a nice restaurant without seeing the manager interacting and thanking customers for coming in and checking on their experience.
Take the time to thank your customers and watch how they respond!
We are all human, and since we are flawed beings, mistakes happen. Most reasonable customers understand that but also expect you to make things right.
Every organization should have a service recovery process that allows employees at all levels of the organization to fix customer problems.
Hearing customer complaints can be difficult, particularly when you and your employees are working really hard.
However, until you can identify those things that the customer wants and is willing to pay for, you waste your time.
Customers who share feedback with a business are gifting them with the information they need to provide the products and services that people are willing to pay for.
Do you know what your customers are thinking?