It’s thought that customers who complain are usually too demanding and hence a nuisance. But it’s not just the upset customers that you need to settle, all customers are giving you some type of feedback to help you improve the service experience.

Too often our customer service management success is measured on our ability to defuse upset customers. It is a common misconception that customers who don’t complain are an indication that a company is doing things right and thus heading in the right direction.

The truth is however, customers who complain are actually carving out opportunities for a business to improve its customer service and resolve any undetected problems for long-lasting profitable growth.

Research has also shown that customers who complain are far more likely to remain loyal to a business if the complaint is resolved quickly. The opposite is true of customers who have problems with a company but don’t complain, opting to shop or to do business with its competitor instead.

Bearing this in mind, let’s examine five customer service tips you can use right now to turn complaints into sales.

1. Customer service management needs to listen intently

Complaints are actually very valuable and they ought to be analyzed. Such data can be used to improve your products or services and analyzed to develop new ideas for product development. When a customer complains, it is well worth the time and effort to pay careful attention to what the customer is complaining about. Take this opportunity to talk to the customer about ideas they might have to resolve the issue.

What you might end up with is a goldmine of information obtained at no cost that can eventually be used to create more sales, simply because you listened.

2. Customer service managers need to train professionalism

Coaxing a vexed customer to be constructive in their criticism is made more difficult if you’re unable to take control of the situation. The simplest way to take charge of a situation where an angry customer is in “full flight” is to stay calm, be polite and maintain professionalism. It won’t be too long before the customer realizes he is overreacting and apologizes for his outburst.

3. Helping difficult customers begins with, “I’m sorry”

When customers complain, they are often seeking acknowledgement of the problem, empathy and most importantly, an apology. If none of these “criteria” are met by the company, the customer will walk away never to come back. Or worse, it may ensue into a public battle. Adopting a defensive stance rarely works with an unhappy customer, even if you weren’t in the wrong. The best solution would be to offer an apology and acknowledge that the company will take full responsibility for its mistake. An apology is to the customer what a pacifier is to a baby.

4. Your speed to resolution is key to settling upset customers

Delight the customers who have lodged complaints with quick solutions to their problems. Many of us are familiar with the “I’ll look into it” phrase, but never to hear a peep from the customer service department again. Stand out from your competitors by working to resolve your customers’ issues quickly. Keep them informed of what you have done, checking to ensure that they’re satisfied with the outcome and compensate them for their troubles. With customer service this good, your customers can’t help but to show their appreciation by sticking around a lot longer.

5. Enlist your customers in the solution process with focus groups

Tap into the collective wisdom of your customers by soliciting feedback or surveying them on complaints you had received. This can be easily achieved by creating a special page on your website or blog. It’s a good idea to do this because sometimes a complaint might sound reasonable and making a change seems feasible, but most of your customers might think differently. By gathering their opinions before implementing any changes, it can save you from making a bad business decision that could ultimately prove costly.

There’s every possibility that you may encounter the occasional serial complainer whose only ambition in life is to make people miserable. You can spot such customers a mile away and they very rarely contribute to the growth of your company. Fortunately, these types of complainers are few and far between and don’t make for very loyal customers.

The ones that do offer constructive criticism disguised as complaints on the other hand, should be thought of as your personal marketing consultants that pay you to listen to them. It doesn’t get much better than that.