The Gift of a Complaint


Having a thick skin in business is important but so is having a soft side that is vulnerable.

If we operate in business with our defences up, we miss the learnings we can gather along the way. Such learnings can help transform our business as it grows and matures.

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When a customer complains we often do one of two things:

1. Become defensive and justify why we did what we did.
2. Say sorry and try to rectify the situation

A third option and the one I’d like to explore is showing gratitude.

If we have undelivered to our customer they have a few options as well.

1. Walk away and never say anything and never come back
2. Bad mouth the business every opportunity they get
3. Take the time and effort to confront us to tell us why they are unhappy.

When people take the effort to complain they are showing that they still care enough to want to work on the relationship. It’s quite significant. If they didn’t, they’d just walk away. But they don’t. They stay and want to talk about it.

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They want to give you a second chance. They want to help you improve your products or processes. They want you to listen.

That in itself is a gift, but here’s where your business can really impress them.

How you respond to that complaint can dramatically transform how they see your business and the story they tell about your business.

If you show them that you value their feedback and make amends that address their problem you can create an advocate for life. Your relationship can be significantly enhanced because of the problem and how you resolve it.

When you satisfy someone’s needs the customer experience is neutral. When you under deliver it is a negative response. When you over deliver they are excited and pleased.

In most business dealings we set out to satisfy our customers needs. It’s a neutral exchange. A problem or a complaint provides the opportunity to over deliver in terms of expectations.

What was once a negative becomes a resounding positive. The trick is to do it with grace and not resentment. Let the customer understand you are pleased they have bothered to let you know about the issue. That you are sorry it occurred and you are keen to rectify the problem.

Then do it.

Here’s an example I just had today after I started writing this article. I noticed on my credit card a debit for hundreds of dollars for a service I hadn’t used in almost a year. I logged in and realised I had left the auto renew option selected.

$234 for a service I no longer use or currently need. I was annoyed at myself for not deselecting the auto renew setting. It’s a trap for new players and I should have known better.

But still I didn’t want to have to pay for something that I wasn’t using. So I emailed their help desk. I explained that I haven’t used the service for almost a year, I don’t need the service and I’d appreciate a refund as soon as possible.

I received an automated response saying they had received my enquiry. Pretty standard. Then almost as quickly I received this email.

Hi there Geoff,

Thanks for getting in touch with us about the renewal, and I’m really sorry to hear if your account’s auto-renewal may have caught you off guard. We keep auto-renewal active on accounts after upgrading to ensure that your access won’t be limited during the middle of a project, and you can disable auto-renew any time. We mention this when you upgrade and in our terms of use, but I’m sorry if you weren’t aware. We’ll be sorry to see you go, but I’d definitely be happy to help you out.

I just refunded your payment method for the last Select Yearly plan renewal for your account, and turned off auto-renewal for your account so you can rest assured you won’t be charged going forward for this SurveyMonkey account.

It may take your bank up to 5 business days to post the refund in your account. Here are the links to your refund receipts, which you can also view from the Billing Details tab in My Account (LINK PROVIDED)

Your account is now on a free Basic plan. Please review this article for more information on how this affects your surveys and available features:

I hope this helps you out today! If you do have any questions, please feel free to write in and I will be glad to help out! Thanks so much for your time and patience.

Best regards,

Customer Engagement Representative

I was blown away. How good is that? They gently pointed out that I should have known better, but regardless they were not only going to help me out, they already had. They’ve turned off the auto renewal – without my asking and reassured me that all is good in the world again.

They also take the opportunity to remind me of the limitations of the free account, in case I change my mind.

Now at present I don’t need their service, but if I do down the track I will most likely come back to Survey Monkey given how they have handled this issue. And I’ve just shared this story with everyone who reads this blog.

This is great example of how to turn a complaint into a gift. When have you been able to turn a disgruntled customer into a raving fan?