What You Don’t Know Can’t Hurt You.. But it Can’t Help You Either

I was speaking informally with a business owner recently when the subject of whether to join Check-a-Trade came up. On balance he’d decided to go for it – but had a little bit of trepidation in case he attracted negative reviews

Image Bad Customer Service

I thought of this recently when reading in the London Metro that British B&Bs came second on the Trip Advisor annual survey (behind Italy in case you’re wondering) – which is up from a position of stone-cold last 10 years ago. It’s a great example of bad reviews being a source of great ideas to improve the business and the impact that acting on them can have.

For a business owner, any feedback should be like little nuggets of gold. Even the stuff from Mr Angry will contain kernels of truth and the more you get – and the more you act on – the greater the chance you will create a genuinely strong customer experience and a point of difference over your competition.

Ask anyone who has actively tried to get customer feedback for their business and I’ll wager a majority trend will emerge: that it’s very difficult to get – and what you do get is, for the most part, positive but anodyne.

Either the questions being asked weren’t ideal or it required too much effort on behalf of the customer to provide the feedback. Take a moment to review your own feedback habits: How much effort are you prepared to go to? Are you more likely to give positive or negative feedback? Are you more forthright when the feedback is anonymous? What did you think of the questions and was it multiple-choice? (eg leading you towards an answer) Was it ‘lazy’ in approach?

The best way I’ve found is a direct phone call, as near to the event as possible asking hugely generalised questions which allows your customer to talk about whatever they want and ideally followed by a thank you of some description – after all you are asking something of them and the results will improve your business – but user-generated online reviews are increasingly common and relevant for any business.

It’s easy to get defensive about this feedback – or fear how easy it is in the internet age to be slated in public – but the potential rewards are huge. The only real danger is not identifying the core issues or not addressing them.

Of course, hearing criticism about your pride and joy isn’t always easy. If you’re in danger of taking it personally remember the acronym: H.A.L.T.

H – Hold On and take a few deep breaths. Even if they have expressed their views in what seems a deliberately provocative manner, there’s gold in them there insults.

A – Ask Questions. There’s no substitute for taking a genuine interest in their complaint and allowing them to get it off their chest. Don’t interrupt and don’t get defensive.

L – Listen like a hawk for what’s at the core of the complaint as it may not be the first thing they mention. Until you have repeated the complaint to the customer and they have agreed (and you’ve established there’s nothing else to talk about) – you shouldn’t assume you’ve finished.

T – Take Action. Even better, be seen to take positive action to address the issue and redress the complaint – whether that’s a genuine apology or something more tangible. I can still recall several buying experiences I’ve had that have been rescued from disaster by someone who cares.

Finding out someone’s cause of complaint and then being seen to fix it is a simple and yet hugely powerful approach.

Would you like a hand figuring out exactly how to apply this to your business? Take action and call me on 07825 589333 or email timbrown@actioncoach.com to request a complimentary 1 to 1 coaching session.