How Customer Service Complaints Can Help Focus Your Marketing

It may hurt to take customer complaints, but listening to them can make you a sales and marketing champion. 

Here’s a question: does “constructive criticism” ever feel good when you’re getting it? Of course not. No one ever feels good when they are being criticized, especially is said criticism is “constructive” in name only. (“Can I offer you some friendly advice? Everything about you is terrible.”)

Of course, no matter how the criticism is meant, you can be constructive with it. You can take slings and arrows and turn them into something positive. That’s an attitude your company should have with customer complaints. They are a chance to improve every part of your process, including marketing.

Indeed, complaints and customer issues are another way that marketing and customer service are inextricably linked. They help you understand customer pain points, which can be addressed moving forward. They can help you understand how customers are actually using your product or service, which might be different from what you imagine. Really, customer service complaints let you know who your customers really are.

Complaints can be harnessed into better marketing and better customer service, if you know how to handle them, and how to be, well, constructive with them.

Great Expectations: The Main Types of Customer Service Complaints

There are a few primary reasons why customers feel compelled to complain, whether it is to a CSR directly or on social media (and don’t forget, part of customer service is monitoring social media).

  • Quality of Product/Service. People want to get what they pay for, of course, and are prone to complain when they feel they were promised something they didn’t get. What’s interesting about these is that it isn’t always about the product, but can be about how the product was perceived before the purchase. That’s a product of marketing, but you might not understand the way people are seeing your services until they complain.
  • No Omni-channel customer care. Customers today expect that they can have a seamless process between your website, your apps, your social media presence, your salespeople, and your CSRs. When they don’t get that--when they feel disjointed and buffeted about, with no firm footing--they feel negatively toward your business. Righting that ship starts with marketing.
  • Promises unmet. Marketing wants to make sales, of course. And while they don’t lie about a product or service, customers might interpret things as a promise or a guarantee. If a cloud storage system promises to “streamline your IT”, and there are still problems, instead of taking it as a process, the customer might think they were lied to. It’s ugly, but that’s human nature.

What do all of these have in common? They are all about expectations, perceptions, and reality. But you might not know your customer expectations until they complain about them being unmet.

How to Fix the Expectations

Chances are, you’ve worked in a company where you get a new client, and they expect things you can’t deliver. At that point, you curse out marketing, because now it’s your problem. But marketing might not even realize the expectations they are setting, and might not realize how customers are interpreting their sales. This can be fixed with more information and more communication.

It starts with customer service. When handling a complaint, they should:

    1. Propose ways to solve the problem. This might mean sending out more information, content geared specifically around the issue, whether it is a blog post, white paper, or (most helpfully) a video.
    2. Dig deeper into finding out the client needs. Why is the client upset? What were they expecting? Discovering the ultimate cause of dissatisfaction, rather than just the proximate symptoms, is key to understanding how your products or services are seen.
    3. Go beyond replace and resolve. Needless you say, the first priority is resolving the issue in an expedited and comprehensive manner. But it’s important to dig deeper, and to provide them with a framework for being happy with the product moving forward. This means really understanding the problem, and rooting it out.

All of this ties back to marketing.

As we’ve talked about, customer service and marketing should be a loop of information. Marketing and sales should know exactly what customers are thinking, because that really tells you exactly who customers really are. Knowing what these expectations are, and how they might be unmet, can help your business hone its marketing and sales approaches.

It isn’t just about changing expectations, either. It is about learning pain points, what drives customers, and what motivates them. Because the heart of expectations is desire. How they perceive a product or service is a reflection of what they want and need. Understanding that, with the help of “constructive” criticism and communication between sales, marketing, and customer service, means setting yourself up for success with every sale.

At RDI Corporation, we combine the best in progressive and comprehensive digital marketing with proven effectiveness in customer service. Our training, hiring, and execution practices make us complete partners with our clients. Connect with RDI/A or RDI-Connect to learn more, and we invite you to read our white paper, The Perfect Circle: How Customer Service and Marketing Are the Same Thing which discusses even more ways that the two sides can complement and improve each other.  

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Better Together: How to Align Sales and Service With the Customer Experience


RDI Corporation was founded in 1978 and is headquartered in Blue Ash, Ohio. We provide precise business solutions through a fully integrated outsourcing model and our clients ranged from mid-sized corporations to distinguished Fortune 500 companies.