"My 6-year-old skipped a turn in class yesterday," the mother complained, before adding, "The instructor didn't even notice! She just let my daughter stare off into space, and didn't even remind her that it was her turn!"
I bit my tongue so that the thoughts boiling inside my head would not...
...escape through my lips,
...travel through the phone that was pressed to my ear,
...sever a customer relationship, setting off a ripple effect and tarnishing the reputation that I had worked so hard to build.
A busy month at the helm of my studio had made me vulnerable to offense, and it was costing me more than just my peace of mind...
(Watch/Listen below, or keep reading)
You pour decades of experience into the services that you offer. We all do. And, all too often, the classes and events that we sell get tangled up with our emotions...
...or with our self-esteem. Ouch.
If customer feedback offends you, you're missing out on the most valuable marketing tool available to your program! It's costing you:
Yes. MONEY! It's actually affecting your revenue because if you are too offended to hear what your customer wants and doesn't want, you will be forced to:
guess which programs will generate revenue.
waste money trying different marketing strategies to see what works.
Customer Complaints Are Market Research
The easiest way to make money as a small business owner is to sell the products that people already want to buy. The customers come looking for you, not the other way around.
But how do you do THAT...without a crystal ball?
The answer is market research.
When customers want to share feedback, encourage them to keep talking. Listen to understand their perspective, rather than listening just so that you can defend your business with a witty reply.
Every instructional program or entertainment event has multiple benefits - dozens of features that positively affect participants.
The difference between high-quality programs that compel parents to trip all over one another trying to get that last spot in class, and high-quality programs that leave you scratching your head because 2 people enrolled is this...
Programs that sell emphasize the benefits that are most important to the potential customer. Those are the benefits that compel them to actually buy.
3 Ways to Create a Culture That Encourages Feedback
1) Educate your entire staff so that everyone understands that when a customer shares a perspective, it is just that, one person's opinion based on that singular viewpoint. Make sure staff members do not see customer suggestions as a personal evaluation.
2) Make it easy for current customers to privately communicate their concerns.
Send email blasts from an email address that is monitored, and let recipients know that their replies will be read.
Create a contact or suggestion form, then make sure that there is a staff member who is assigned to respond.
Set up direct message autoresponders and assign a staff member to check for, then reply to new messages.
Let customers know that you welcome feedback in your videos or with signage, if applicable.
Regularly send out short, open-ended surveys.
3) Thank customers for sharing, even when their words are harsh.
*Note: it's okay to set boundaries for excessive situations. Personally, my "line in the sand" is profanity. There is a difference between tactlessness and verbal abuse. Neither you nor your staff should endure abuse from irrational people.
The Benefits of Becoming Unoffendable
An unoffendable business owner or program director uses everything that is said to them or about them as fuel for forward progress and growth.
You have a choice:
Continue to give customers the power to bring you down and zap your energy with their feedback.
Become unoffendable - create a culture of communication. And, use that feedback to propel you towards success.
If You're Ready to Enjoy Communicating With Your Customers While Keeping Your Cool and Experiencing Incredible Program Growth, Stay Tuned for Part 2
You don't need an "off" switch for your emotions. You need a strategy that you can start using right away to:
Emotionally, mentally, and quantitatively sort complaint calls, messages, and face-to-face conversations into useful "buckets".
Stop allowing your customers to hurt your feelings or make you angry.
Turn complaints and suggestions into the fuel you need to get more customers in less time with less effort.
Love your customers again.
In the meantime, enjoy learning more about how market research helps program directors create the programs that families want to buy.