Customer complaints

There are many ways to increase revenue from existing customers. Just one of the opportunities is in the area of employee communication with customers. It might sound strange, but your employees might be scaring away customers faster than you can attract new ones.

One area to explore is the way customers who have complaints are handled. Even if complaints are relatively rare, few realize the full impact that customer complaints have on a rental business. Most rental businesses don't put a large enough emphasis on strategies to help the customer decide to come back to your company after a complaint or misunderstanding. Even minor misunderstandings can cause lost customers.

Like you, I do business with companies with salespeople who are cool, calm and professional - even when things go wrong. We all seek out companies that have a culture of "making it right" if some product is defective or something else goes wrong. Even though you go to great lengths to try to keep anything from slipping through the cracks, things can go wrong at times. It requires training to gracefully recover from a tough situation.

Here are a few reminders of what you could do to take advantage of this opportunity:

  • Analyze the communication between your staff and your prospects and customers. Be sure to have this done objectively by a qualified consultant. Are your employees using the best techniques to maximize their effectiveness with customers? If not, training and retraining are needed.
  • Build enthusiasm and positivism. So many employees don't have the enthusiasm and positive spirit needed to take your business to the next level. This topic is so important that I devote considerable portions of my monthly employee newsletters to it. The topic requires constant attention.
  • Develop a plan to make the needed changes and - in the case of people skills - to make the changes into habits.
  • Make it part of your company's culture to handle customer complaints consistently and effectively. Train employees in customer relations, communications and how to handle customer problems more effectively. (Chapter 7 in my book, "A Practical Guide to Working in an Equipment Rental Business", titled "Handling Customer Problems," serves as a handy reference for employees on this topic.)
  • Encourage customer feedback even when the feedback is negative. Most customers who have problems don't complain. They just don't come back.
  • Be a positive role model. As you know, most customers are not skilled in dispensing constructive criticism. Their choice of words and their body language often won't match your image of someone who can be reasoned with. Naturally, some employees take the criticism too personally - especially in those cases where it's obvious that the customers' problem was self-inflicted. It's hard to be objective concerning customer complaints when you're proud of your equipment and the service you provide. As the employer, don't let your frustration show.

The rental business revolves around problem solving. The most successful companies seek ways to retain every customer (not just the nice ones) and invest in the appropriate employee training. Investing in training your employees to handle tough situations more effectively pays big dividends in increasing revenue from existing customers.

Dick Detmer is a nationally recognized consultant, lecturer and writer and has 35 years of experience in the equipment rental industry. For consulting, on-site employee training or to order books, visit www.detmerconsulting.com. Dick can be contacted at dick@detmerconsulting.com or (309) 781-3451.

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