The following article features a transcript of Clay Clark (US Small Business Entrepreneur of the Year) & Dr. Robert Zoellner (Venture Capitalist, Entrepreneur) discussing how to best learn from upset customers on Thrive15.com, one of the most affordable business schools in Florida!
Clay Clark: I'm not going to ask you the number because I think that's kind of a private subject. With all the businesses you have, you probably have a complaint on a fairly regular basis because on a weekly basis, how many customers do you see at the optometry place?
Dr. Zoellner: Quite a few and when you put all of it together, I've got a couple employees under me. And with that many and then we're all busy, you're going to get some complaints. Just the way life is.
Clay Clark: I bet with your businesses, though, you probably see thousands of people a day, between all of them together.
Dr. Zoellner: Oh yeah.
Clay Clark: And with that there's got to be, I'm just making up a number, but even if you had one tenth of one percent, that would be like a complaint a day. Under that scenario, you can't get bitter, you can't get emotional.
Dr. Zoellner: Yeah.
Clay Clark: Do you just, when you have a complaint, you want to deal with it right away and then just move on? Is that how you deal with it?
Dr. Zoellner: I do. I think that there's a sense of urgency in making sure that you take that. You asked earlier, though, what were some of the steps I would give someone to do that? Really, practice, role play. Have one of your friends, have one of your employees come at you like they're upset.
It sounds kind of silly, but it really helps. It really helps in your vernacular. It helps in you listening. It helps in you, the believing side of it. Because, I tell you what, if you're sitting there listening to someone, they're telling you a story, and you're over here texting and you're over here doing whatever, and you're rolling your eyes like, "Yeah, whatever." "Oh, wait. I was listening." No you weren't.
Put away all your distractions and practice on really listening. Have someone come in and role play that out. I think role playing in a business is so important. So what does that look like? That's looks like, "Okay, I'm having a hard time dealing with complaints, so Clay I want you to come at me as if you're an upset patient. And we see how I do. And let me try to handle it. Ready? Go." And then we actually do it.
Clay Clark: I was getting emotional. I was getting ready.
Dr. Zoellner: I know. I know. You're about ready to fire up on me. And I would have to take a deep breath. Believe you, listen to you, and fix the problem.
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Clay Clark: The final thing I want to ask you and then to wrap up this segment on how to learn from these customers that are upset, learning from complaints, is just walk me through. No matter what business I have, if I own a Dairy Queen or if I own a furniture store or I own a software company. If I get a complaint, your step one is ...
Dr. Zoellner: Believe it.
Clay Clark: Believe it. Okay. Step two, what do you want to do?
Dr. Zoellner: I want to listen.
Clay Clark: Okay. Step three, what do you think I should do?
Dr. Zoellner: I'm going to figure out what I need to do to fix the problem. Because if I believe him, then there's a problem.
Clay Clark: Okay. Next step, what do you want to do?
Dr. Zoellner: Well I want to satisfy that customer. I want to satisfy myself that the problem is fixed. And then you got to build that trust on, not only with the customer, but maybe you have an employee. Maybe it's something physical, maybe if it has something to do with the physical aspect of your business.
For example, one of my business, I had one of those things that stopped tires when a car pulls in. I guess one of the metal pins that you drive into it to hold it in place, had actually kind of come up a little bit. So a person pulls in, drives in on it and they back out and it catches their bumper.
Clay Clark: Rips the bumper off.
Dr. Zoellner: Yeah, rips the bumper partly off and they are upset about it. So they fire up and come in there, get me, because I ruined their car. They come at you and you believe them. You think, where is it because I need to fix this, right? So you're listening to them. They're going on and on and on and on. So you walk outside, they show you physically where it is and you're like, "Oh yeah, I need to fix that."
And then you kind of look at their car a little bit and you're going, "I'm not sure I believe them completely." But you got to stay focused on it. And then, I said, "Okay. Here's a name number. I'm on it. Let me figure out how I'm going to fix it, but I'm on this. Have a nice day. You can drive your car still. Everything's safe." So then I call my attorney and said, "Hey listen. What are my liabilities here?" "You're liable for it, if it happened on your facility." I called a buddy of mine that owned a automotive repair place. I said, "Listen, do me a favor. I'm sending this person. Give me a good deal on it. I need to fix her bumper." So I called back the person. They go in they get it fixed.
Of course, while their there, then they go on to say that the battery was broken because of it, all these other things that were broken because of it. They wanted more than what was reasonable. So I reasoned with them. I said, "Listen, we did the bumper, the bumper pulled off. We fixed your bumper. All these other things on your car that verified from my mechanic that did not happen because of my parking lot. So that's what's reasonable." Okay, reasonable, boom, took care of it.
Clay Clark: This is the stuff that happens in American business everyday. This is the stuff we need to know. This is what happens every day, we need to know how to deal with it. I want to tell you, I appreciate you for taking the time to share this stuff with me. Because I know that you could not have built the businesses that you've built and I know, first hand, that you have not built the business that you have today by treating people poorly when you make mistakes.
But I can also say that you didn't build a great business or a great kind of an empire of businesses by never making mistakes. You've made mistakes, but you've always fixed them and owned them and improved. I appreciate you sharing the proper way to learn from customer complaints.
Dr. Zoellner: [laughter] Well I learned it the old fashioned way, trial and error. I promise you, you catch more flies with honey, and the nicer you are to people, and the calmer you are, and the more you listen and the more you believe them and then the more you ask them, with true meaning in your heart, what can I do to fix it. And within reason, of course, everything's within reason, but within reason, you make them happy, you fix it and then you build them back up. And guess what. Now you have a patient for life. Some of my most loyal patients are the ones that we screwed up when they came in the office and it's that opportunity to fix it and make it right.
Clay Clark: I have one complaint I wanted read on camera.