When Customers Care Enough to Complain (October 2016)

When businesses receive a customer complaint, they would be well served to listen carefully. Those that take the time to voice a complaint have likely been your most loyal consumers over time and are taking the time to bring a concern to your attention because they are disappointed in a recent experience AND they want to continue to do business with you in the future.  Let me say that second part again.  They WANT to continue do business with you in the future and by complaining they are asking (in some cases literally begging) you to give them a reason to keep spending money with you.

Last year I rented what was supposed to be a Jeep Grand Cherokee (or similar) from Dollar Rent A Car for my annual ski trip.  When I arrived the only vehicles available were in no way similar to the Jeep so I ended up getting stuck with a much lesser vehicle. Usually, car rental companies are happy to trade you up to a better class of vehicle; this is the first time I have ever been traded down! To add insult to injury the tire pressure was low and the windows were dirty. The slopes were calling, however, and I figured if I could make good time on the drive up to the mountains and keep the family moving we could make it out on the slopes in the afternoon. I was disappointed in the experience but realized that I picked my rental car company on price so really only had myself to blame. I can’t remember if I ever rented from Dollar in the past but decided they wouldn’t be getting any future rental business from me given their take it or leave it attitude. I had no long term relationship with the company or brand loyalty so it was easy for me to just move on after a sub-par experience.

On the other hand, I recently had a dreadful experience with BMW. I’m a long term owner and on the verge of buying my third vehicle from them (something they have now put in jeopardy).  In the past, the company has always treated me well. My first car (bought used from a local dealer) developed a problem shortly after purchase.  After a few trips to resolve the problem, the dealer covered half the cost of repairs even though it was out of warranty.  On another occasion, my brother and I had each purchased a day at the BMW Performance Driving School. We had to cancel at the last minute and a great deal of time passed before we could reschedule causing the certificates to expire. Yet, when I called to inquire, they honored the certificates with little hesitation. And then there was the Saturday morning when I had an issue and stopped by the dealership to see if there was anything that could be done. I wasn’t expecting much on a Saturday but one of the service advisors happened to be there. He said he’d take care of it first thing Monday and offered me a loaner for the weekend. These are the kinds of small acts that build long term brand loyalty.

So, when I had a more significant issue I expected similar treatment.  After all, this is MY brand; I’ve told countless people about the experiences mentioned above.  How could they disappoint me?  Yet when I took the time to complain to the folks at the BMW 1-800 “client relations” line, I was shocked by the runaround, lack of empathy and even acknowledgement of the issue. They have a long term brand advocate on the phone asking them to honor the relationship yet somehow they have managed to produce the single worst 800 number experience that I have ever encountered.

The people in any company who are hearing from customers need to be among the most important in the organization. This is no place for training newbies. They need to be empowered to solve problems; not read from a script. They need to be able to provide real answers not excuses. Those you are hearing from are most likely those who have been extremely loyal to you and your brand and are looking for a reason to stay that way.  When a loyal customer cares enough to complain, the smart company listens and does something about it.

Customer relations ought to be an area to which proven performers are promoted; not a starting point from which employees are trying to move on!

Epilogue:   Kudos to the BMW Social Media Team for reaching out to me after reading my post.  They revisited the situation and made good by offering Owner Loyalty dollars . . I’m looking forward to the new car.

If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you.  Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]
your cash is flowing.  know where.®
Ken Homza
Copyright @ 2016 Homza Consulting, Inc.


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