Could customer complaints be good for business?

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Complaints are undesirable as nobody wants unhappy customers, but when handled quickly, complaints can actually be good for business. Simply changing your mindset and treating complaints as an opportunity to improve, supported by the right travel technology, allows you to prevent future complaints and turn something negative into loyal customers who rebook time and time again.

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is becoming increasingly important in the travel industry. With widespread staffing challenges and the cost of acquiring a new customer five to ten times as expensive as retaining an existing customer, businesses that can create better customer loyalty will see their revenue grow.

While travel businesses seek to offer over and above their customers’ expectations, holidays are highly anticipated occasions that evoke a lot of emotions and any part that isn’t quite perfect can quickly cause frustration. When you factor in customer emotions and the complex nature of the travel industry, it’s impossible to prevent complaints entirely, but it’s how you respond that’s key.

According to research by Esteban Kolsky, 13% of unhappy customers will share their complaint with 15 or more people. With the reach of social media, one bad experience can easily escalate and impact future bookings if it’s not addressed quickly, and it’s easy to see why complaints are seen as a negative.

Nobody wants unhappy customers, but surprisingly, complaints can be good for business. Complaints are an important part of holistic customer relationship management providing constructive opportunities for your team and company to grow. By hearing problems directly from your customers, you can investigate and improve to prevent further complaints in the future. 

Only 1 in 26 unhappy customers complain directly to you, the rest simply won’t rebook. Customers who do complain should be treated as a valuable resource as they can give you the information you need to make improvements. Those who do share, usually express not only their own feelings but those of other customers too. When you address their feedback and provide a quick resolution, you are likely to make more than one customer happy.

A CRM is actually a vital part of your complaints handling and customer feedback process. Customer Relationship Management (or CRM) is software that is perhaps typically considered to be more focused on sales or marketing. However, CRM can also define a process of customer engagement. Using a CRM to create a single view of the customer across all touchpoints, utilise complaints workflows, identify known problems and proactively manage issues will enable you to respond to complaints quickly and efficiently. By offering a solution and following up with the customer to make sure they are satisfied, you can turn complaints, which are often seen as something negative, into loyal customers and even brand advocates.

Not only do well-handled complaints result in increased loyalty, but these customers are also willing to pay more. Harvard Business Review identified more than 400,000 customer service-related tweets sent to major airlines and followed up with a survey to see if the customer service they received impacted how they valued the brands. The results were staggering. 

The research found customers who interacted with a brand’s customer service representative on Twitter were likely to pay more for the brand (over £8 more for a ticket on that airline in the future) or choose the brand more often from comparably priced tickets.

What can you do about the 96% of unhappy customers that don’t complain directly? 

Every travel business should ask their customers for feedback, which can be easily tracked, managed and reported on with a travel-specific CRM. Actively offering customers an opportunity to share their experiences will uncover opportunities, both positive and negative, that can inform future business strategies.

People want to book their holidays with businesses and agents that are trustworthy and care. Having an open channel of communication where customers can report problems has a positive impact on your brand reputation and shows you listen.

As travel businesses work to deliver exceptional customer experiences, customer expectations increase accordingly. Developments in technology can help support this by offering a seamless experience across all customer touchpoints, but complaints are an inevitable part of doing business. Instead of viewing this as a negative, agents and operators that change their mindset and see complaints as an opportunity will reap the rewards. Having clear processes in place, the right travel CRM to track and manage complaints, and proactively asking for customer feedback will allow you to turn complaints into loyal customers who not only want to rebook but will share their experiences with others.

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