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gift_w_hands.jpgIt’s basic human nature to bristle at any kind of criticism. Dale Carnegie taught us in his 1937 classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People, not to criticize, condemn or complain if we want to appeal to others. But when it’s our customers who are complaining, we’d sure be well advised to LISTEN! By ignoring them, we could be handing a strategic plan to a competitor who could simply solve that problem and win the favor of the entire market!

Consider these examples:

Southwest Airlines was met with open arms in the marketplace because they cared about passengers when the other guys didn’t. Disneyland was an instant success because Walt Disney was appalled by the conditions he and his family met when visiting the average amusement park. Kemmons Wilson didn’t like how most hotels charged extra for kids to stay with him and his wife on vacation, so he promptly started the Holiday Inn with the value proposition that “Kids stay free!” These now legendary organizations would never have come into being had the existing competitors just listened to the customers’ issues and then went about fixing them.

According to research conducted by Albrecht & Zemke, between 54 and 70 percent of customers who complain would keep doing business with the organization if they would only address and work to resolve the complaint. Just hear them out, in other words! When a customer “complains,” think of what they’re offering not as unjust criticism, but as a suggestion on how you could keep their business! If we’re targeting the most profitable customers, they deserve our attention! As Harry Beckwith suggested in Selling the Invisible, we’d a whole lot rather them tell us they’re unhappy than to go down the street and advise a competitor how to earn and keep their business.

So the next time you hear a “complaint,” consider it an early Christmas present!

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