Learning how to handle complaints the right way can turn a precarious customer circumstance into a great one. Here are some tips on handling complaints.
- Thank the person for giving feedback
Recognize the complaint, and be positive about it. Thank the person for taking the time to communicate their concerns and to give feedback. Remember that many other people will just walk away without giving feedback, and that those people may be just going to the competition. A customer bothering to complain to you to try and get satisfaction is a customer that you should be grateful for.
- Try not to be defensive
If you care a lot about your business, then you may naturally feel defensive when someone complains. Rather than blowing a customer off or saying “No, you’re wrong” if you feel that they are lying or exaggerating, try to hear them out. You do not have to agree with them, and it is not a good idea to agree with someone who has exaggerated the situation, but you should try to keep the conversation moving towards the best solution.
- Acknowledge their issues
Every customer has a different value dimension. Try to understand what is important to the customer, and find a way to deliver that. Even if you disagree with the complaint, there is something that the customer cares about that you have not delivered on, but that they see as being a part of your company.
If a customer, for example, complains that service was slow, then it is clear that they value speed. You can respond to them acknowledging that they deserve an “efficient service”. If they encountered rude or dismissive staff, acknowledge that the customer deserves to be treated with respect and courtesy. This indicates to the customer that you agree with them about what they value, and that you feel it is important to deliver those things. Importantly, it does this without agreeing that you do not offer those things.
A customer does not want to hear “you are wrong, our service is fast” or “you lied about how you were treated”. They want to hear that you understand what they said and appreciate your custom. You want to make the customer feel right, rather than argue about the facts. Agree on the importance of what they value. Show that the customer is important, because even if they are not always right, they always matter to the business.
- Use verbal judo instead of boxing
A boxer will always go after their opponent and try to knock them over. A judoka will work with the other person’s motions in a bid to achieve the desired outcome, using the speed and momentum of the other person to turn them around. By showing your customers that you understand what it is they value you can catch them off guard, and avoid a confrontation. Once they are on your side it is easier for you and them to work together for a mutually beneficial outcome.
- Do apologize, but only once
The customer is a crucial part of your business. Apologize for the damage, inconvenience or frustration that they have experienced. Do so once, upfront, then work on solving the situation rather than repeatedly apologizing and weakening your negotiating position.
- Explain that the company has a desire to improve
The next step is to show the customer that you are working on a solution. If a staff member did something wrong, say that you will be retraining your staff so everyone knows the correct procedure. If something out of your control caused a late delivery, say that you are working to find ways to stop late deliveries from happening again in the future. This will help to ensure that the customer feels like you are actually taking the complaint seriously. Of course, if you say that you are working on something, or that you are going to do something, it is important that you actually follow through and that the customer can see tangible results or improvement in your service in the future.
- Educate your customers
A big part of listening to the customer is taking the time to find out what their problems are and then providing them with good answers. If you are asked something that you cannot answer immediately, be honest, tell them that you will look for the answer and then get back to them. Be sure to follow up within a reasonable timescale. Contact your customers, and tell them that you have managed to find a solution. Even if they didn’t ask for an update they will likely appreciate follow-up on the complaint. This is your chance to prove to your customers that you actually care.