How to handle complaints
There are several key stages to handling complaints, no matter what form or shape they take, in your business or organisation:
- Thank the customer for complaining. Think yourself lucky that the customer is prepared to give up their time and money to let you know they have a problem, instead of just walking away. Complaints are good things in most cases.
- Say that you are sorry that the problem has happened – this is not an admission of guilt on your part, it’s just good manners.
- Put yourself in the place of the customer. This will instantly give you an advantage, as you will not only have more empathy with the customer, but you know your business better than them. As a result, you can hopefully see and solve the problem quicker.
- Start with the view that the customer has a valid point, not that they are trying to rip you off or be difficult for the fun of it! Accepting that the customer may well have a point, even internally, may well trigger off ideas for an acceptable resolution.
- Get all the facts and feelings first. Letting the customer give you all of the information helps you fully understand the situation and, if they are emotional, will give them time to calm down.
- Correct the mistake. Do not leap straight to the “free gift” route. Neither is it always best to escalate or pass on too quickly. While it’s very tempting to give the customer a gift or vouchers, it is done too often instead of solving the problem. This can lead to more complaints about the same thing in the future, because the problem hasn’t been hasn’t been fixed. It is not a good idea to ‘hide’ behind policy either.
- Make sure that your definition of the right fix is the same as the customers.
- Learn from every complaint. Do something! Fix the process, train others in the issue and eliminate the fault. Wherever possible, let the complaining customer know that they have helped you resolve a problem – they’ll feel great and come back again and again (and will probably tell their friends!).
- Minimise reasons for complaints. Do you have a continuous improvement culture? Do you check customer (and employee) satisfaction regularly? Do you check the quality of the goods sold in your organisation?
- Always respond – Make sure that everyone who complains on the telephone, in person, on social media, by letter, or by email gets a rapid and appropriate response.
- Listen to your colleagues. They nearly always care about your company and doing a good job. They are also much closer to the customers than you are. Ask their views regularly and make changes when they are sensible. Make sure their complaints are handled too.
- Lead by example. Make sure that you personally are always setting the right example, and giving complaints your personal priority.