Dealing with customer complaints
Complaints are a part of doing business. When a customer complains, it is typically for a good reason or a genuine concern. They usually have made a purchase that did not meet their expectations. They are dissatisfied with a product, service or maybe a combination of the two. Fewer than half of customers complain; most simply adjust their buying habits. When a customer complains, it provides you with the opportunity to turn a dissatisfied customer into a satisfied customer and perhaps into an advocate for your product or brand. This is true whether you are dealing with a retail or wholesale customer.
Following are steps you can follow to resolve a customer complaint.
Remember the customer is not attacking you personally but rather the situation. A person who remains in control of their emotions deals from a position of strength. Don’t get defensive, keep your cool.
Let the dissatisfied customer blow off some steam. Do not interrupt. Often it is helpful to repeat back what you are hearing to show that you have listened. Typically as the dissatisfied customer vents, they will begin to calm down. The customer must be in a calm frame of mind before a solution can be reached. As needed, ask questions about the issue. It is your goal to solve the problem, not to argue.
It will help to defuse the situation if you let the dissatisfied customer know you have heard their concerns and that you are going to work with them to resolve the issue. If your company made a mistake, admit it. Don’t blame another person. Simply say “I’m sorry about that.” If you did not make a mistake and it is a misunderstanding, explain that to the customer. You can say something like “I can see how that would be very frustrating.” You are not necessarily agreeing with what the customer is saying, but you are respecting how they feel about the situation. The customer needs to feel like you are on their side and that you empathize with them.
4. Offer a Solution
When you have sufficient details, offer a solution. There is always a solution. It may not be exactly what they are requesting, but focus on what you can do versus denying to solve their problem. You must keep in mind what you can and can’t do within your company guidelines. Making a promise you can’t keep will only set you back. Often it is helpful to propose one or more solutions to solve the customer’s complaint.
5. Execute the Solution
Solve the problem with their originally requested resolution or an alternative you propose. Execute the solution quickly. Research indicates that customers prefer to have the person they are speaking with solve the problem rather than moving it up the chain of command.
6. Follow Up
If appropriate, a quick follow-up phone call in a few days is good. You can make sure everything is ok and the call provides assurance the complaint was resolved. This is particularly important with commercial/wholesale customers.
Be Prepared For Complaints
Complaints will come so it is best to be prepared:
- Have a written procedure for how complaints should be handled.
- Any employees that interact with customers should be trained on how to handle complaints.
- Keep a log of all complaints and how they are resolved.
- Periodically review your complaint log to determine if there are any trends in the complaints you receive.
Remember: When you successfully resolve a customer’s complaint you better understand their needs and you retain them as customers.