It is human nature to react when a customer complains about your service or product, particularly if the customer expresses anger, frustration, disappointment or hostility. I’ll cut right to the chase: effectively handling complaints requires most of us to shift our way of thinking. We need to set our egos aside and view a complaining customer as an opportunity to better understand our customer experience and be open to change.
Every company needs an effective system for dealing with complaints to ensure your customer service system is top notch. Sure, you may have a system in place, but is it helping improve your customer experience or simply putting out fires?
Ensuring your customer service team understands the difference between a complaint and a personal attack is the first priority. The customer almost always is complaining about a failed product or service, not the failure of the individual he is speaking to about the problem. Still, customers can be challenging to speak with, and downright unpleasant at times. How your customer service team responds, such as communicating the process they will undertake to resolve the complaint, should give the customer peace of mind and demonstrate that the organization genuinely cares about resolving complaints.
Another shift in thinking could be viewing complaints as positive – blessings in disguise – since they can illuminate where your service or product needs improvement. When a customer complains, thank them for bringing the matter to your attention and giving the company the opportunity to improve the product/service. Of course, you’re not likely to make a significant change to your product or service after just one complaint. However, complaint number one is a good time to start gathering more data month over month to see if other customers are saying the same thing. Listen to your customers! They are the end users and often know your service and product better than you do.
If a customer complains, have you lost them forever? Absolutely not! In fact, resolving your customer’s complaint quickly may earn you higher customer loyalty than if the service or product delivered correctly the first time. We can all relate to the experience of complaining to a company, but not having a timely response, or worse, having our complaint be rejected always reflects poorly on the brand. All that marketing you do to increase customer acquisition is wasted by not figuring out how to protect your brand and increase retention.
Ask yourself, “Does my company spend as much on retention as they do on acquisition?” I imagine that they don’t.
One missing system in most organizations is that there is no set Service Level Agreement (SLA) in addressing negative feedback. Not having a SLA for this will result in a fragmented process that has no internal goal which ultimately affects your customer’s experience. Go out and set your SLA’s for complaint management.
One thing you do not want to do is simply reimburse or discount the customer who is complaining without taking any other actions. It’s easy to throw money at a problem and hope it goes away but this is not what your customers are looking for. They are looking for you to make things right in an operational way as well. Your customers are looking to hear what actions you will take next to ensure that it’s unlikely that the same issue will arise. Let the customer know what you are going to do about the matter along with the financial compensation they may be looking for.
“Mrs. Johnson, I greatly apologize for the inconvenience we have caused. As promised, I will be reimbursing you for the amount you suggested. Equally as important, I will be speaking with our customer service representative that provided the incorrect information to you as I feel there is a great learning and training opportunity here…”
Do this to not only give the customer peace of mind that you are doing your very best to ensure their concern doesn’t resurface, but to show them you would appreciate another chance to rebuild their trust. I can tell you first hand, customers love this!
Everyone wants to be heard. And we can all appreciate acknowledgement of a wrongdoing and a strong effort to make up for that mistake. So I encourage you to embrace complaints! Buried within them you may find your diamond in the rough: the areas where you need to re-evaluate your service or product to ensure you’re not only meeting customer expectations, but exceeding them.
Properly listening to customers negative feedback can make them an asset and help grow your customer intelligence.
Let’s ensure our expectations as consumers is aligned with what we deliver as professionals. In other words, if you’re going to demand that a company responds to your complaints immediately you better do the same within your business.