According to 1Financial Training Services, 96% of unhappy customers don’t complain, and 91% of them will simply leave and never come back. So, having a customer call with a complaint is something to be grateful for. It shows the customer is giving you a chance and still hopes to do business with you. Every business should consider this as a chance to strengthen the relationship with that customer. How you handle the complaint process will determine if you will lose that customer or win their loyalty.
Follow the steps below to handle complaints from your customers in an effective manner so as to make the most of the situation.
1. Listen to, and acknowledge the Complaint
Every complaining customer feels entitled to their opinion and anger. More so, they feel it is their right to vent such anger on the basis that they’ve been wrongly treated by your company. Now, before going to whether or not the customer is right, the first step is listening to the customer and acknowledging that they have a complaint.
If your company is at fault, admit it. But even if it’s just a misunderstanding and your company did no wrong, still give the customer an audience. You don’t have to agree with what the customer is saying, but you just need to respect how they feel about the situation. Listening to them may help calm their anger.
2. Manage your emotions
It is possible to get attached to your business as its owner, and thus, be tempted to see any negative reaction towards your business as a personal attack on you. You must avoid this and endeavour to be objective when dealing with customers’ complaints. Put your emotions aside and don’t take it personal.
The complaint can come in a calm manner or from an enraged customer who is breathing fire and thunder. Whichever is the case, you must not allow your emotions to get in the way, as that can worsen the situation. Approach things with an open mind; they could be right, thereby helping you to straighten something out in your business.
Get the facts right
Hearing the customer out at first often helps to calm them down. Afterward, go on to ask questions to further clarify the claims and get more details about the issue. Avoid scripted responses and cliches that the customers must have heard before. Rather, show genuineness and willingness to solve the problem for the customer. If it involves a member of staff, also make inquiries from the person on the matter to help you understand the situation better.
3. Provide support
After listening to the customer and having a proper understanding of the situation, you should provide some form of support. Offer the customer possible options for resolving the situation. When your company is at fault, it is important to take responsibility for sorting the customer out, and your options can include replacing a defective item with a new one. But sometimes your company may not be responsible for the problem. Even at such times, you should still have options for the customer. For instance, if an item they purchased from you has gone bad (and they caused it), you can offer them a discount when they come to buy a replacement, and recommend better options for them.
4. Be thankful and offer an apology
As I mentioned in the beginning, when a customer complains, it shows they are giving the business a second chance. Most people will not say anything but will stop doing business with the company. So, even when your company is not at fault, you should still appreciate the customer for taking out time to report the issue and apologise for the inconvenience they must have gone through because of the situation. You may not be able to satisfy every customer or sort out all their problems (especially the ones that are their fault), but make sure you leave them feeling good about you, or at least with a good opinion about your manners.
5. Follow up on the matter
Even after you must have apologised or proferred a solution to the customer, a follow-up call, email, or note a day after or so, can help you make a final impression on the customer. They won’t doubt you really care about them. Perhaps, the next time the customer shows up, you can ask them for an update on the matter and the solution you proferred. If it was a serious matter (for which your company was at fault) and a member of staff handled it, a follow-up call from you, the business owner, can go a long way in making the customer feel a lot better.
6. Track complaints
Customer complaints are a great resource a business can use for its growth and success in the market. Do not neglect them. Keep track of complaints and use them to improve your business. By taking note of these complaints, you can gain valuable insights about your customers, their needs and expectations. You can also learn a lot about areas in your business that need to be worked on.
7. Address the problem source and avoid repetition
When a customer complains about something and the problem is with your company, do not only seek to pacify the embittered customer, also ensure to address the root of the problem. It could be an incompetent staff who should be retrained, moved to a different department or even fired. It could be bad raw materials from a particular supplier who you should stop buying things from. When you don’t dig deeper to find the cause of the problem and resolve it, you will have similar issues from other customers.
The danger in this is that it will give your business a bad reputation. Customers often discuss amongst themselves, and when more than one person shares the same issue they had with your business, then it becomes a negative tag on your brand. This will spread to other customers who may not have had such an experience, and to potential customers.