Blue Eyed Sun

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Why customer complaints are good for business

Why Customer Complaints ar Good for Business

One of the best things that happened to me this year was a customer complaint from one of our major key accounts.

It happened on our exhibition stand at Spring Fair and it was one of the worst business experiences I’ve had in a long time. I got roasted by the head buyer for our poor service on delivery. At the time I wanted a big hole to open up and swallow me up. I was horrified that our business, which we work so hard on, could have allowed this situation to occur.

In our defence, there were a variety of factors at play including large spikes in demand for our products that year which had been difficult to predict. This was not really our retailer’s problem though. The bottom line was that the buck stopped with us and our customer was unhappy. The stores had suffered stock-outs, which was bad for business for both them and us. Something had to be done.

What happened, as a result, is a good example of why I am always pleased to listen to customer complaints even when they are difficult to hear. This is especially true when things can be done that will lead to improvements throughout our business. One should try not to dismiss them readily and always track them. At Blue Eyed Sun we note down all of our ‘onions’ and ‘orchids’ and discuss them in our weekly team meetings. Complaints are onions and compliments are orchids (terms I borrowed from business expert Robert Craven). Both are key to marketing and growing your business.

So what happened next? Well firstly, I assured the customer that the problem would be dealt with and then went about taking a series of actions that meant the problem did not happen again. I communicated the situation to everyone within our business straight away. I called our workshops and asked them to make sure that whatever orders were due for this customer were the number one priority that week so that the buyer didn’t return from the show to find the issues still reoccurring.

At the show I discussed the situation with my assistant, who has a background in buying for a multiple retailer, and we identified the top causes of the problems that had led to the complaint. When we returned to the office after the show we set about tackling these one by one as quickly as possible.

Now this all sounds obvious and one might be tempted to ask why we hadn’t fixed these issues in the first place. The reality is they were complex and involved a broker, one of our printing suppliers and our own internal systems of stock control and warehouse management. There were also tough decisions to be made that we had not got to grips with, like increasing our stock holdings, cutting out ranges that could not be reprinted easily in a cost effective way and external challenges like improving top level communication with the broker involved.

In fact communication within our company, with our suppliers, with the brokers and with the retailer was one of the things that has improved dramatically and has meant that our fulfillment rate hit 97% within the following six months. Our rate of sale also leapt 25% and we are now the top handmade supplier at this particular multiple retailer.

The complaint also lead to us reviewing our warehousing systems and we have completely changed the way we hold stock and how our shelving works. We are holding more stock in less space and orders are leaving our warehouse faster than ever which means our customers get even better service. Blue Eyed Sun were even listed 18th out of 800 for Best Customer Service to independent retailers at this year’s Henries Awards.

The thing I am most aware of with this particular customer, and all customers who complain, is that we were lucky. Lucky they took the time to tell us. Many customers won’t and will just leave and not come back. By telling us, they gave us the chance to deal with the issue and turn their experience of us around. I am eternally grateful to them for doing this and the the process it has made our business better for them, for us and for others.

So do remember to tell your suppliers when they do a good job and more importantly when they don’t.

It could improve things for both of you.

How To Complain And How To RespondFurther Recommended Reading:

7 Habits of Highly Effective Retailers

9 Tips for retailers to improve their greeting card sales

10 Things to do in the next 10 days to grow your business