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Customer Complaints are a Gift

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

In my mailbox today I found a fantastic personal story from my good friend, Jeff, about how treating a customer complaint as a gift ended up winning back a customer, and saving the company money.  I’ll let Jeff tell the story in his words:

“I drink Coca-Cola each day and I have my favorite Sunoco gas station where I go to get a fountain drink. The Sunoco station was out of the soda I like so I went to the nearby Mobile station, which is the only other nearby source for fountain drinks.   I don't like the soda here because the syrup mixture is way to strong for me.  As I entered, I mentioned to the manager that the mixture of syrup at his store is awfully strong.  He said he would look into it.

This morning he told me that he’d mentioned to the vendor that a customer had brought an issue to his attention and asked them to take a look at it.  I was surprised as in my experience most people forget about the customer issue or blow off the customer and go about their daily business.  The service rep discovered that the syrup mixture was double what it should be! In the back of the room, the machine pumps a specific amount of water & syrup into the tubes connected to the dispenser.   The mixture had been very wrong for quite some time, costing the company double what it should have in syrup consumed. What’s more, the nozzle had to be replaced because it was getting all "gunked up", also costing the vendor in repair and replacement costs.  When asked by the service rep, the manager of the Mobil station said, "the customer 'gets it'.  He knows what the product is supposed to taste like."  

I thought to myself, "how often to we ask our customers what they want or what the product "tastes" like?  Or how often do they listen to a customer’s complaint or recommendation?  How many customers went elsewhere because of this problem? This manager listened and reported back to me on my initial comment.  I felt great that I had been heard.  I felt I had a better relationship with the store manager, and with the store that I had shunned in the past.  I’ll be going back.”

A simple, but powerful lesson:  customer feedback is a gift.  Listening to customers not only helps us better serve them, but can often save us money.  How well are you listening to customers?  How easy do you make it for customers to contact you to voice their concerns?  How do you close the loop with customers, letting them know they’ve been heard?  How do you thank them for their feedback?  The next customer complaint you field might just mean a customer saved.

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Categories: CCO Council | Customer Centricity | Customer Insight | Customer Loyalty | Customer Retention


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