“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford

In our world of customer service, we are understandably focused on keeping our customers happy. We work tirelessly to create good policies, hire and train good employees, and treat our customers well. It’s easy to perceive complaints from loyal customers as evidence of breakdowns within our carefully cultivated systems of service. However, this could not be further from the truth.

When a customer complains, it’s easy to hear “Failure! Failure! Failure!” when we ought to be hearing “Opportunity!”. Most customers who are upset about a situation will not take the time to complain directly to us. Instead, they’ll complain to their friends and perhaps avoid doing business with us for a period of time. However, customers who bother to complain (especially ones who have previously been very loyal) are not actually calling to complain. Rather they are calling to reach out to us to find a resolution. The hidden beauty of their complaints is that they are asking us to really hear them and to rebuild the relationship they’ve previously enjoyed with us.

If we rise to the challenge to repair these fractures they’ve experienced in their interactions with our companies, their opinions of our companies will actually become more positive than they were before they encountered difficulties. Customers understand that things happen, and are willing to suspend their ultimate judgement of our companies until they see how we respond to them. Our responses reveal whether or not we are really willing to listen to them and, more importantly, how much we actually value their patronage by acting to preserve it.

“The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when someone asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer.”
— Henry David Thoreau

Our misconception that perfect service is what attracts and retains customers does both us and our customers a disservice by oversimplifying the complexities of customer relationships. Loyalty is built upon positive experiences but strengthened by weathering challenges and reinforcing our commitment to our customers when those challenges do arise. Let’s look for the opportunities to prove to our customers that we want them to remain our happy customers by enthusiastically rising to meet the opportunities their complaints present us with.