February 1998




Got an angry customer? No problem. Just tell him not to calm down


A research study has found that customers who are allowed to vent their frustrations aggressively and in person become much better customers than those who have no such opportunity.

Furthermore, the chance to kick and scream means as much or more to customers than a speedy and fair resolution of the complaint might. Yelling gives customers instant relief - a sense of having made their tormentors suffer as they have. It restores equilibrium in the customer-retailer relationship, and allows it to continue.

The study was described in a recent issue of the Journal of Consumer Marketing. "In the course of the investigation it emerged that not only did many of the company's customers who complained most ferociously seem to repeat their business more frequently than the rest; they also appeared to place larger orders following complaint resolution," it says.

The article suggests the best way to make loyal customers out of ballistic ones is to provide them with someone to yell at. The designated whipping-person needs to listen to the complaints without interrupting, not even to get clarification, then admit the company's responsibility for the problem (regardless of who was actually at fault) and apologize immediately.

Ironically, the real problem for retailers is not customers who yell too much, but those who yell too little, the article suggests. Some people feel guilty or embarrassed expressing anger. These customers are much more likely to walk out the door and never return, carrying their bad memories with them (and ready to share them with the world).

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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