Should You Ask for Complaints? Yes, No, Maybe?

During a consulting visit with one of my clients, a senior level leader stated “we don’t hear much negative from our customers.”  He then asked an interestingly odd question, “should we be asking for complaints?”  Like most questions of this nature, there are no easy answers!  However, here were just a few of the highlights of the spirited discussion that ensued:

  • Complaints are a gift from customers.
  • The voice of the customer is essential to improving service delivery and the relevance of future consumer experiences.
  • The absence of complaints is not necessarily a good thing, nor is the presence of a steady stream of comments reflecting dissatisfaction.
  • Asking for customer input is a delicately important part of the overall customer experience.

So you might be asking, what was the byproduct of this discussion?  In the end, I suggested that asking directly for “complaints” is not a good idea.  It signals that customers should be dissatisfied about some aspect of their experience.  Additionally, I noted that well-designed “customer listening”  affords consumers the opportunity to provide input on transactional aspects as well as holistic impressions of their service experience.  Asking customers general impressions of their experience, accompanied by questions like “what else might we have done, if anything, to have made your experience more enjoyable/effortless/positive?”, results in opportunities to demonstrate authentic interest and a desire to improve existing goods and services.  Efficient inquiries of this nature typically help your brand move forward while being readily welcomed by consumers.

All too often companies do not ask for feedback, ask in a way that customer’s feel compelled to give a positive albeit not honest answer, or ask too many time consuming and intrusive questions.  In summary, I strongly believe we should not be asking for complaints but instead should be seeking opportunities to be better for our customers at their next interaction with us.  What do you think? How might I serve you better in my next blog post?

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Joseph A. Michelli, Ph.D. is a professional speaker and chief experience officer at The Michelli Experience. A New York Times #1 bestselling author, Dr. Michelli and his team consult with some of the world’s best customer experience companies.

Follow on Twitter: @josephmichelli

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