Turn Complaints into Opportunities—and Save a Customer or Two

One of the sure signs of a bad or declining relationship is the absences of complaints from the customer,” reports Harvard professor Theodore Levitt. “Nobody is ever that satisfied, especially not over an extended period of time. The customer is either not being candid or is not being contacted.”

If you’re not getting customer complaints, you may be missing opportunities to retain and expand relationships. Rather than complaining, customers are probably just leaving—or, at best, cutting the amount of business they are doing with your bank.

No matter how high your bank’s level of service, there will always be occasional mistakes, or service errors. Accept the fact that customers complain and consider improving your internal processes to welcome these customer issues. Otherwise, customers may simply walk away, deny you an opportunity to make amends, or worse, make the complaints public.

The average person who has a complaint tells 9 to 10 people about it; 13 percent tell more than 20 people. Customers whose complaints have been resolved tell 5 to 6 people about their positive experience.

I believe banks should not only actively encourage their customers to provide feedback, but make it easier for their customers to do so. How? By providing ways for customers to constructively complain at either the branch level or via another communication channel (such as telephone, email or surveys).

The first step to encourage feedback is to listen to what customers are saying, especially as it relates to ideas for improvement. The next step is the most important one: Act on what customers are complaining about. Make sure those who have offered comments know what your bank is doing about their suggestions.

This is not to suggest that the bank has to change or fix everything customers complain about. However, when comments are acknowledged with a simple message that thanks them for making the bank aware of an issue with its service, products or a staff member, it goes a long way in turning complaints into new levels of satisfaction.

For example, “We were disappointed to find out that you are dissatisfied with the level of customer service you received on your last visit to our East branch location. Without customers like you, we wouldn’t be aware that problems exist with our service or products. We’ve taken some immediate steps to address your concerns and have also developed a long-term strategy to deal with this type of challenge in the future. Thanks again for your valuable feedback.”

With this simple message, you let these customers know your bank is serious about listening, learning and improving the banking experience based on their feedback. Contacting these customers shows that your bank is not only responsive to their needs, but values their relationship. In some situations it can also provide your bank with win-back opportunities.

It’s amazing how something as easy as addressing a customer complaint can be to help your bank retain and increase the lifetime value of your customers. So the next time you receive a complaint, think of it as a deposit in your bank. Complaints pay huge dividends in the form of positive referrals, increased cross-sales and customer retention.