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Customers Gripe...Are You Listening?

cust-complaints.jpgA couple of recent articles have spotlighted one often-overlooked way to build your business: Listen to customer complaints and change your business in response to what customers say they need.

In one recent article, specialty frozen dog-food company owner Marie Moody frankly describes how she tuned out customer complaints at first because "my gut told me I knew what was best for the company." Sales were small. 

Once she began listening and changed her packaging to suit customers' desires, what do you know--sales shot from $500,000 a year to $5 million.

In an interesting article on the blog Chicago Now, serial Entrepreneur Barry Moltz lauds Whole Foods' habit of posting responses to customer complaints on a "Whole People" bulletin board in each store. 

A lot of major corporations have turned to social media to connect with customers and answer their concerns. Comcast Cares and Best Buy's Twelpforce are two of the best-known examples. Both companies report these new efforts to show customers they're listening have been huge sales- and brand-boosters.

What's your policy on customer complaints? Do you have a process to encourage customer feedback? Once you gather that feedback, what's your procedure for discussing and responding to it? For getting back to that customer?

In this tough economy, listening to customer complaints can point the way to growing sales from existing clients who already know your company. If you don't have good procedures for handling customer complaints, maybe now's the time to put some new methods in place.

Carol Tice, a freelance writer, is chief executive of TiceWrites Inc. in Bainbridge Island, Wash. She blogs about freelance writing at Make a Living Writing. Email her at carol@caroltice.com.

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