New ventures…use customers’ complaints to fine-tune your services

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” says Bill Gates.

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning” says Bill Gates.

In a recent discussion with the owner of one of the best restaurants in town, we exchanged on the secrets behind the outstanding service in his restaurant. Even though he does not have a hospitality background, he has managed to have the place-to-be in Kigali. Here is what he says:

 “At the opening of our new venture, we relied a lot on our customers’ complaints, feedback, comments and suggestions to improve our services. Though we were new in this business and didn’t exactly know what to do in certain cases, we started right from the beginning to take very seriously all the comments that our customers made. Things that were often invisible to us were noticed by our customers. We spent time going through each comment in order to find a solution. For instance, a customer helped us to know that the lock behind the ladies washroom needed to be fixed. How on earth could I have known this as a man? This is a small detail but this is exactly the type of feedback we cherished during the first  days of our restaurant. Complaints have actually and are still helping us to improve daily on our services”.

This is so true and your columnist wishes many more new-venture owners to pay attention to their customers’ feedback, especially when they are still new in business. In every new venture, there will be things that do not happen properly. But the most important thing then is the way you react towards each complaint.

When I first came to Rwanda some years ago, I was surprised to notice that people hardly ever complained. I remember the first time I was in a supermarket where a lady just jumped the queue to come and stand at the front while we were all waiting. When I asked her to follow the queue, the look from other customers in the queue was what rather shocked me. It was as I was the one doing something wrong by complaining.

Later, a Rwandan  colleague told me that people often do not say anything even when they receive poor treatment. But the fact that people keep quiet doesn’t necessary mean that everything is right because these are the same people who will criticize things in their parlours or in their private homes.

So whether you work in a saloon, a coffee shop, a bank, a boutique or even in public service, the basic rules are the same. Be wise and pay attention to those who actually complain. They are doing you good by saying what they think about your products or services.

I know some complaints are baseless or that sometime, some customers are simply difficult to satisfy.  But believe me, whatever the case may be, you need to do everything to make them happy. Dealing with angry customers doesn’t always have to be a battle.

One of the integral aspects for new venture owners is to train all employees so that they know specifically how to deal with complaints. Teach them to learn to listen carefully, to apologize, to offer alternative solutions and ultimately to thank the customer for voicing out the complaint.

They should not run away when things go wrong. They should rather face it and remain professional.

No matter what your customers may complain about, it is very important to believe them and to avoid taking the complaints personally. It is often said that a customer whose complaint is dealt with effectively often becomes the most loyal person for your business.

So make sure you win over the complainant. Aim at transforming complaining customers into your most loyal customers. Seize every opportunity a complaint offers to fine tune your services and you will see how the reputation of your company will positively grow.