One of the major problems with being on top of customer satisfaction is that most unhappy customers just won’t talk to you. They’d rather just go away, and not come back. In fact, according to Ruby Newell-Legner in “Understanding Customers,” only 4% of dissatisfied customers will tell a business anything. 96% will just walk out the door without saying anything, and 91% will never come back.
What can you do about something like that? That silent loss of customers can bleed a business dry, and the only real warning that you have is your shrinking customer base. By the time you notice that, it may be too late.
Why don’t more dissatisfied customers tell businesses why they’re unhappy? There are probably many reasons, but there is no doubt that a large number of customers feel that complaining would do no good. If they think that you aren’t going to listen to them, they are much less inclined to talk. After all, it’s much easier to turn around and leave — and take your business elsewhere.
The single most important thing that a business can do to break through this wall of silence is to actively reach out and survey their customers. The mere act of asking customers how they feel about your business tells them that you will listen to them, and that you do want to hear their complaints. And the questions that you ask in a good, well-planned customer survey can detect even unspoken dissatisfaction. Once people understand that their opinions matter to you, you’ve broken through the barrier, and made it far more likely that dissatisfied customers will talk to you, and not just leave.
And consider the payoff from retaining your customers. According to marketing metrics, you have a 60% to 70% chance of selling to an existing customer, but only a 5% to 20% chance of selling to a new prospect.
That means that simply by retaining a customer, you’re up to 14 times more likely to make a sale — and that an existing customer is up to 14 times more valuable than a new prospect. it’s the old story of a bird in the hand being worth far more than one in the bush.
This alone makes an effective customer satisfaction survey well worth the expense, and when you consider the added expense of winning new customers, the cost of a survey becomes negligible. In many ways, it’s the equivalent of keeping your store’s roof in good shape. It may cost some money to have repairs done when your roof has a leak, but that’s nothing compared to the cost of water damage to your store or your inventory.
Just as you wouldn’t allow the rain to pour in through holes in your roof, it makes no sense from a business perspective to allow your existing customers to drain away. Customers are assets, just as much as your inventory, your staff, or your building, and you need to maintain them just as much as you need to maintain any other assets.