Do you look forward to receiving complaints from your clients? Do you dread them or do you look at how to use them to build a better relationship with your clients?

Don't You Just Love it When Your Clients Complain?

Dear *|FNAME|*, 

This year I've written a lot in Scribbles about how looking after your existing clients is such an important part of your marketing strategy. A part of this strategy is how you deal with complaints.

Do you look forward to receiving complaints from your clients? Or do you cringe every time you answer the phone, in case there's an unhappy client at the other end? There's nothing wrong with hearing a complaint from a customer – unless you don’t do anything about it. This issue of Scribbles looks at why you should love complaints and what you should do about them.

Best wishes,

01635 578 500


Don't You Just Love it When Your Clients Complain?

Here's a true story that shows why you should embrace complaints and how best to deal with them.

Last spring a small Marketing Consultancy (let's call them Appletree) took on a new client (who we'll call Sue.) After an initial planning meeting, we agreed the work we would do every month for Sue's company. It was all set out in her Marketing Plan, showing what needed to be done every month. I handed the work over to my brilliant Account Manager, leaving her to liaise with the client and one of our freelance copywriters. And then I made mistake number one. I didn't check in with my Account Manager, to make sure she understood what I was expecting her to do. I just assumed that, as she was great at her job, she would know what I was expecting.

After the first three months, my Account Manager left to work for a bigger firm. That was when I looked at the account and realised that quite a lot of what should have been done, hadn't been done. My fault entirely for not carrying out a proper handover and for checking in more often. Sue also noticed that things weren't right and told me that she wasn't happy.

How did I handle her complaint? By apologising for not looking after her and arranging a meeting so we could talk about it. Speaking to an unhappy client face to face is a daunting prospect, but it was the best thing to do. By the end of the meeting, we'd agreed exactly what needed to be done to catch up on what we'd missed; and what we would do going forward. This included charging Sue a lower monthly fee and doing less work for her. Not ideal for my cash flow, but it suited her better and I knew that we could deliver the smaller work load to a high quality.

Everything settled down and Sue was happy for a while, until I handed her account to another member of staff. This time the briefing was thorough and everyone knew exactly what work was to be carried out. But there was a problem of personalities – they just didn't get on. I started to get a feeling that something wasn't right from listening to phone conversations and seeing the lack of progress on monthly work. As soon as I realised how serious the problem was, I called Sue. What followed was a fairly tricky phone call with my client, when I had to just shut up (difficult for me!) and listen to everything she had to say. But it was worth it. Listening to what an unhappy client has to say and then working out the best way to get them the result they want is essential. I didn't make excuses for the problems that had occurred or try to justify them; I just apologised and worked with Sue to get her the results she wanted.

The result? In the last month Sue has sent me two really great referrals and I've started working with one of them this month. She's really pleased with what we're doing for her and proves it, by recommending us to other people she knows. That's the best measure of how happy your clients are with your service.

So the next time you receive a customer complaint, how are you going to handle it, so that you can turn that client into a raving fan?! 

How Else Can You Look After Your Clients?

Check out these articles for more ideas about looking after your clients.

Learn how to talk to your clients – and they'll love you for it.

Don't bother with new clients – just look after the ones you've got.

Let your clients do your marketing for you – how to generate loads of referrals.