Your Customer Has a Number


My business partner recently needed to get a refund from an airline. She didn’t cancel the flight, they did.  After making numerous calls, to numerous people, repeating the story over and over, I questioned whether it was worth the hours and aggregation. Although she was hornets-nest irritated, for $1600, she assured me, she would fight until she was reimbursed. It took hours of explaining and holding, and 6 months to get the refund.

Did you know that resolving a problem takes an average of three attempts with 69% of consumers reporting their complaint multiple times before it is resolved?

Should be easier, right? When she booked the flight, the booking procedure knew her contact information and seamlessly charged her credit card within seconds. To get the refund, however, was like going back 50 years…forms to be filled out, emails sent, internal documents delivered to numerous departments. Once a refund was authorized, she was informed that it could take one or two business cycles to appear on her credit card. All told, maybe 4 hours of phone time, and 6 months to resolve the issue!

Amazing. Studies have found that the average time wasted to address one complaint is one hour and 4 minutes and the average amount of a refund is $125.

Here’s the deal. For every customer who takes the time to complain, 26 other customers remain silent. If the dollar amount of the issue is low enough, the time to get help is too long, or they are not mad enough that it becomes ‘a matter of principle,’ your customer may just leave.

What is the purpose of making customers struggle to resolve an issue? While there may be dollars saved in the short-term, losing customers and resulting negative word-of-mouth is monumentally more costly.

Here are some things to consider when implementing your resolution/refund policies and procedures:

  1. Your customer wants to be treated with respect.
  2. They want you to resolve problems quickly and effectively.
  3. They don’t want to wait on hold or repeat the issue numerous times.

If you do it well, they are willing to continue to do business with you and may be willing to pay more. If you don’t they will run to your competitors.

You get to decide which story they tell about your company.

Originally published in July 2015 Carmel Business Leader.

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