The Power of Complaints

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The Power of Complaints

“CUSTOMER COMPLAINTS”…lots of businesses hate them, but we at the Beechworth Bakery welcome and embrace them.

I have to tell you, I don’t enjoy being told that we haven’t delivered what we promised. But we love to be given the opportunity to fix what we have stuffed up!

Over the years a lot of my business mates & associates have put customer comment boxes in their businesses, but then they do nothing with the suggestions, complaints or comments. They tend to ignore them and just hope that they go away, and because they do nothing and take no action about any complaints, the customers stop giving them any input.
What we do at the Beechworth Bakery when we receive any comments, is have our store managers answer each and every one of them in writing. Some do a better job than others, but they all do a great job at fixing any problems that have been brought to their attention.

I must admit, most of the comments are telling us how great the cake etc was or how much they enjoyed their visit to the bakery. All terrific stuff for our egos … but it doesn’t really help us. On the other hand, the ones that do complain and give us feedback and facts about things that could be better are the ones that really do help to make improvements to our business.
We might have a run of complaints about our coffee being too cold, and when we check things out we find that the thermometers being used when heating the milk are out of whack. Sometimes comments may be that a cake is too dry or that the staff member didn’t hand them a receipt or that they were not very helpful.

Some of the complaints we cannot do anything about – except to say sorry – but most we can. And then there are some people that we could never please, but that’s ok too. Most of the people who write a comment/complaint do so to help us: they want us to be a success. They enjoy visiting our shops and they want to help us be better.

Each day the comments are put on a board in the staff room for all to read and left there for a week. Our staff love reading the comments, especially if their name is mentioned, e.g. “Fantastic service by Sam today”, but can be a bit embarrassing if it says “Mary could learn to smile when serving”. We don’t hide any, and if it is a serious comment regarding a staff member being rude etc, the manger will take action and speak to that staff member straight away. The staff can really identify with the complaints, because they are customers too at some time or another and don’t like bad service either.

We put a variety of 30 good & bad customer comments up on a board in each shop for the customers to read as well. They love reading other people’s complaints and comments and also often identify with what they read. Most people think that businesses don’t really care what their customers think, but we do! We really do. These customer comments have become a big part of our success. These complaints give us the chance to redeem ourselves, and sometimes these people become raving fans of the Beechworth Bakery.

Research in the USA showed that one unhappy customer tells 25 people about it, whereas a happy one tells four. People don’t whinge and complain because they want their money back, they do it because they care.

Answering every comment is a big job and takes quite a bit of time, but these customer comments are invaluable because it’s free feedback on how we can do better! Our managers and supervisors can’t see everything that is happening in our shops. We need to take on board what our customers are saying because they often point out unidentified problems. And like everyone else, at times we do stuff up!

We have to keep that focus on what we are in business for, and that is to give great service to our customers and to keep listening to our customers. These customers that care enough to give us their time need to know how grateful we are for their feedback… With their help we can keep on getting better!