I just returned from speaking at the International Franchise Association convention. This was my sixth year speaking at this great organization’s conference and I decided it should be more of a conversation than a speech. While there was plenty of content in the session, I asked our audience members to share their best practices that related to the various topics that were in the presentation.
One of these best practices came from Jim Brown, the Chief Operating Officer of Handels, a chain of homemade ice cream and yogurt shops. By the way, you should know that this chain of ice cream shops has numerous accolades including listed as being number one in the world for ice cream according to the book, “The Ten Best of Everything: The Ultimate Guide to Travel” published by National Geographic.
His best practice had to do with complaints. My first response to Jim, after he told me about Handels, was how many complaints does an ice cream store typically receive? Probably not many, but when Jim does receive a complaint from a customer, the first thing he does is what most of us do. He apologizes to the customer and discusses what he can do to make the situation right. So far, that’s nothing special at all. But then he does something interesting, if not somewhat unique. He invites this complaining customer to be part of his secret shopper program. He actually turns his complainers into mystery shoppers!
What a brilliant idea. He not only apologizes and fixes the problem. He enlists their help to ensure a positive experience for other customers. And, the customers love doing this. Sure, they get some free ice cream for helping, but they also get to feel like part of the Handel’s team. He turns these complaining customers into customer evangelists!
This idea is so simplistic, but the results are excellent. Most of the time when there is a complaint, we want to resolve it and restore the customer’s confidence in doing business with us. This takes it one step further. This almost guarantees that the customer will not only come back, but become loyal as a result of the “bond” that develops when the customer becomes part of the team.
I’m constantly amazed at how many different ideas people and companies use to amaze their customers. What ideas do you have that turns complainers into evangelists? Send me an email and I may just include it in my next book.