• Bill Greider

Customer Complaints: "Hug Your Haters!!"

"Haters are not your problem....ignoring them is"

If you'd like a really fun read, try out Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers by Jay Baer, one of 2016's top 3 marketing books. Being pretty much an idiot, I read this as a LEAN textbook, even though it is being celebrated as groundbreaking in customer service circles.

For those of you who have religiously or even occasionally sifted through my drivel over the past 5 years, you know how important complaints are to me. My #1 favorite A3 project is without question customer complaints! I have always looked at complaints as a way to directly delight my customer and show them just exactly how important they are. It gives us the chance to put our A3 program on full display, and then watch with astonishment how loved our customers feel. You see, I KNOW my customers realize nobody is perfect, and I also KNOW they lodge complaints to their other suppliers, including competitors.

Think about a time when you were livid about some product or service you just paid for. Think about how much more livid you got when you found yourself going nowhere fast. Maybe you got typed into a complaint system, or had to wait on hold for weeks for answers. All the smiles and pats on the back from the sales team turned into the sounds of silence as soon as a little trouble arose. I'm convinced that most customers will even pay a little more if they know you are always there in times of trouble.

According to Jay, 80% of companies say they deliver out­standing customer service, but only 8% of their customers agree. THAT leaves you lots of room to delight. In a 2015 INC Magazine article, Baer suggests 3 ways to use complaints to strengthen your business:

1. Seek out your haters-don't wait for them to come to you. In my manufacturing company, I used to think "no news is good news". Complaints actually indicate pain points that you need to address. (Remember the TPS principle "make problems visible and the root of your organizational learning?)  

2. Leave no complaint unturned-by using temporary self-directed work teams and A3 to address complaints, you are creating a deeper brand experience for your customer. The A3 team is a cross-section of every person needed to get to root cause and implement a countermeasure (s) that prevents the problem from ever happening again. And it happens fast.

3. Craft a "hatrix" to guide your responses-this document is meant to explain to team members the best way to deal with complaints based on where and how they were delivered. We want to make sure our customer gets delighted no matter whom they are delivering their "message" to.

I read this as a lean textbook because the goal of a lean journey is to "leverage operational excellence to create market disruption.'" That means being one of the 8%!!!

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