How to deal with customer complaints
How to deal with customer complaints
If you are in business long enough, the chances are you’ll receive a customer complaint at some point, no matter how careful you are.
No one enjoys dealing with complaints, but if they are managed properly, they can sometimes be a good thing.
Generally, people don’t enjoy conflict, so it can take a lot for your customer to get to the point of making a complaint.
By the time you receive a new complaint, your customer has already gone through a time consuming process.
They’ve selected a product, handed over money, found a problem and then tried to resolve the issue themselves. They’ve searched for solutions and may even have enlisted help from others. They may have already approached your company for assistance, but not received the response they were hoping for.
By the time they feel there is no option but to complain, the chances are they’re already upset, agitated, frustrated; any number of negative emotions. They might take this out on you, as the person representing the company. Try not to take it personally (however if they are excessively rude, it’s perfectly acceptable to discontinue the conversation politely).
You can often bring about a complete U-turn from anger to gratitude, depending on how you handle the issue.
It’s all about perspective, and complaints represent an opportunity.
By complaining, your customer is giving you valuable feedback about your company or your product, and you now have the chance to rectify it. This affects not only them, but also any other customer who may have the same experience, but doesn’t take the time to tell you.
Many customers will never come to you with their problems. More than 90% will simply complain to others about your company.
Negative reviews can be powerfully persuasive, and each poor experience reaches the ears of around 10-15 people (even more if they are unhappy enough to post about it online).
Hence, a lot of damage can be done to your business’s reputation without you ever knowing there was an issue.
Embrace the complainers. They are the ones who have come directly to you to solve their problem, instead of telling everyone else about it.
The good news is, your biggest complainants can become your best customers when handled properly. Successfully resolving an issue builds customer trust, and studies suggest that a complaining customer may actually be more likely to return to you, once they have established a good relationship and know that you are capable of resolving any issues that might arise in future.
It’s important to have a process in place in case you receive a complaint. This will help you ensure problems are dealt with properly and consistently, for the best possible outcome. The details will vary according to your business, but the outline should look something like this:
- Acknowledge the complaint – and do it quickly. A fast and professional response can help to diffuse the situation immediately.
- Take ownership. Your customer has no choice but to rely on you to help them resolve their issue, so give them some peace of mind by owning the problem. Apologise for the inconvenience they’ve experienced and offer some assurances. Be honest and keep your promises.
- Be proactive. Resolve the issue, and if you can’t do this yourself, take the necessary steps to make sure that it happens. See the complaint through each step to its resolution.
- Follow up. Once the issue is resolved, follow up with your customer after a short time. Find out if everything is ok, and ensure they are happy. If not, start the process again. If so, it’s a nice touch that should find them in a better frame of mind, and this step can help to build great long term relationships.
Make it easy to complain. If your customer has difficulty finding someone to help them when they have an issue, they’re going to be annoyed and mistrustful before you even hear from them.
Train your staff to handle complaints. Great customer care is the backbone of a successful business and your staff are the face of your company. Don’t skimp on training them how to look after your clients.
Make it personal. We are all someone’s customer, so put yourself in their shoes and show some empathy. Listen to what they have to say without interrupting. Be patient, ask questions to get all the facts, and record the details carefully.
Take care not to make assumptions. You may be the expert, but find out what the customer actually wants. For example, it’s easy to assume that a discount or freebie will make them happy, but they might just want an acknowledgment, or for something to work in a particular way.
Go easy on the defensive. If the customer has taken the time to contact you, they are aggrieved and feel there is an issue. Even if you feel they are mistaken, it’s not helpful to vehemently defend your stance. To your customer, this is the equivalent of calling them a liar or belittling them, and this can inflame the situation even further. Maintain your professionalism and be gracious.
Complaints can be an opportunity to improve your products and services, as well as showing off your excellent customer service.
With so much competition out there, great service can be the reason you are chosen over your competitor.
By handling complaints in a positive manner, you can improve your business and make better long term connections with your customers.
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About the author:
Susan McGuire is originally from London, United Kingdom, and has now lived in Galway, Ireland, for 15 years. She has been with Retail Solutions for almost 7 of those, and during that time has enjoyed various roles within the areas of Maintenance, Finance, & Marketing. You can follow her on LinkedIn!