That’s what I did just now after reading the August issue of Independent, the excellent newsletter (it’s more like a magazine) published by the Independent Book Publishers Association. An article titled “How to Handle Complaints” by Janelle Barlow and Claus Moller missed what I thought was the most obvious way to make a complaining customer feel better.
Here’s the letter:
“How to Handle Complaints” in the August 2008 issue missed the Number One most obvious way to handle complaints and keep customers for life: pick up the telephone and call them.
That’s what I usually do when I receive an email from a particularly angry customer, or a sort-of-angry customer. The response is almost always the same: “I can’t believe you’re calling me” or “I’m really impressed because nobody calls anymore” or “I didn’t expect a call…I just wanted to vent. What an honor it is to hear from you!”
Calling them gives me a chance to apologize profusely and let them know how sorry I am, to offer something for free like a $10 special report of their choosing, and to tell them about other free information at my Web site that they might not know about. In a few cases, I’ve even been able to sell the person more products than the one they originally had trouble downloading, or didn’t like.
I always call if someone demands a refund, and I’m able to save the sale in four out of five cases.
I also take issue with the authors’ recommendation to get back to the person who is complaining within two weeks, either by letter or email. Two weeks? That’s an eternity! By then, the angry customer has already told eight friends about the bad experience, let resentment brew for two weeks, and found another vendor.
Letters to the editor are effective publicity tools because they:
—Promote your expertise. Notice how I mentioned that I create information products. In my “Special Report #4: How to Write Crisp, Compelling Letters to the Editor that Promote Your Product, Service or Favorite Cause,” I encourage writers to weave into the letter facts about their business. One great way to start a letter is to refer to yourself as an expert. Example: “As a publicity expert who teaches people how to promote online and offline…”
—Get you in front of a targeted audience. Authors and publishers are in my target market.
—Promote your business philosophy. I’m fanatic about customer sevice. This letter proves it.
—Promote your websites. Many editors won’t let you include your URLs at the end of the letter. But this newsletter does, perhaps because it’s a trade publication written for its members.
So what do you think? Are letters to the editor effective, or a big waste of time?