Satisfied Customers Are Not Loyal and As for the Whiners and Complainers!

Satisfied Customers Are Not Loyal and As for the Whiners and Complainers!

By Jurek Leon
If customer service is all it’s cracked up to be, how come customers tell us they are satisfied with the product and the service, but if it’s more convenient or a lower price, they buy from the opposition?

Ever asked yourself that question? If so, you are not alone.
Does that mean that customers are disloyal or does it mean that we aren’t asking the right question?

Here’s an example of the service provider asking the wrong question.

One Sunday recently I was out for lunch with three family members. It’s a place we’d been to once before and enjoyed the outlook, the food and the experience. On this occasion the service was slow and inattentive. I was picking up the tab and it wasn’t cheap. One of the group was happy with her meal but for the other three it was a real disappointment; definitely not worth the wait. Which is exactly what my wife and I were quietly saying to one another when the head waiter came up and asked, “How was your meal?”

How was your meal?

We both turned to him and said, “Fine.”

Why did we do that? Because we couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of how he might handle our negative comments and we didn’t care enough to give him honest feedback. We weren’t willing to make the emotional investment. Perhaps if the staff had demonstrated by their actions that they were concerned about the delay in taking our order, bringing the drinks and eventually bringing the meal, we might have returned the favour, but we didn’t. Our feedback implied that everything was satisfactory. Yet in the car going home Gwen and I decided that we wouldn’t be going back there again.

So, when you hear people complain, welcome their comments. I know a lot of them don’t do it in the most pleasant manner but that doesn’t make their feedback any less valuable.

We need to get across the message that complaints are a gift and we should express gratitude to the givers of those gifts. If that is our belief, then we can learn and profit from the negative feedback. Then, we need to ensure that we and all of our team are schooled in the techniques for handling negative comments and unpleasant behaviour (I’ll write an article on this soon).

It’s not natural to be pleasant to people who are being unpleasant to us.

I’ve run a lot of courses over the years on how to handle difficult customers, but I’ve never yet run a course for difficult customers on how to complain constructively and pleasantly in a way that will get them a better result. I’m sure you’ve got some customers you’d like to send along to such a course. Unfortunately, I doubt that they’d be willing to attend.

Which means that you’ve got to invest the time and commitment to develop techniques that will overcome the natural human reaction of ‘fight or flight’. In other words, the natural tendency to snap back at snappy customers or do a runner. When we feel it is inappropriate to do either it often causes us a lot of internal stress. Not a great result!

So, reduce your stress by attending a conflict resolution course, learn from your customers’ feedback and foster more repeat business from your complaining customers. Yes, that’s right, turn your complaining customers into loyal customers. There’s a swag of research demonstrating that if we handle complaints well and resolve them promptly, customers who complain are so appreciative it can make them more loyal than if they never had a gripe with you in the first place.

Isn’t human nature fascinating!

What about that question?

So, what is the right question to ask if we want to find out if customers are happy with the experience of buying from us?

According to loyalty expert Fred Reichheld of Bain & Co, the best question to ask is, ‘Would you recommend us to a colleague or friend?’ (I’ve written an article on this titled ‘The Ultimate Question’.

If the answer is, “Yes”, follow up with, “That’s great. Thanks for the positive feedback. Tell me, what is it you particularly like about dealing with us?” Listen carefully to their response and soak up the positive vibes.

If the answer is, “No”, follow up with, “Thanks for your honesty. Can I just ask, what’s the most important improvement you would like us to make so that this would be your first choice?” Then listen carefully and make a note of what they tell you.

Jurek Leon is a storyteller, trainer, author and coach based in Australia who presents courses and addresses seminars on word of mouth marketing, motivation, customer focussed selling and service excellence. Subscribe to Jurek’s FREE monthly ‘Terrific Tips’ e-newsletter at
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