Why learn how to deal with customer complaints?
Though you might receive a complaint every now and then, too much negative feedback can turn away potential customers, resulting in lower sales and profits. It can also earn your business a bad reputation that can be hard to shake. So as a business owner, how do you turn a negative experience into a positive one? What can you do to ensure customer complaints and solutions are dealt with in a healthy and professional manner? Here are eight simple tips on how to deal with customer complaints.
1. Create a customer complaints policy
A customer complaints policy outlines a clear procedure for handling customer complaints and solutions.
It should explain how customers can make a formal complaint, what steps will be taken to address the problem and what solutions might be offered. A customer complaints policy should also be easy to understand, identify ways to improve services in the long term, restore trust with customers, and lead to better outcomes.
Before developing a customer complaints policy, it’s important to consider personal business ethics and legal trading obligations.
2. Stay calm when handling customer complaints
Businesses deal with all types of customers, from the ‘friendly’ old lady who tries to offer tips on how to do your job, to the angry customer ready to explode, to the dreaded ‘Karen’.
Though frustrating, the best thing you can do when customers complain is not to let your emotions get the better of you. Losing your cool or yelling at a customer – whether in person or online – is never helpful.
Don’t get defensive about a complaint – it’s not a personal attack. Treating a customer with disrespect not only reflects poorly on you but on your business. Radiate anger or hostility, and you’ll only get it in return.
Take a deep breath, maintain a respectful tone and refrain from name-calling or finger-pointing. Never say or do anything that can be used against you. By demonstrating good emotional intelligence, you show customers that you care about their concerns.
No matter how big or small, customer complaints should be handled with the utmost care and importance.
Make sure your customers feel heard: Demonstrate good active listening when resolving customer complaints by asking questions, observing non-verbal cues, and being patient and non-judgemental.
Ask questions that get to the root of the problem: Can the customer provide an example? Can they expand on their point further? Propose possible solutions and make them feel like you’re on their side. Apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Although it might feel natural to do so, avoid telling customers why they’re wrong. Show kindness and even thank them – let them know that their feedback is appreciated.
4. Be prompt in dealing with customer complaints
When resolving customer complaints, you need to be quick – the faster you solve the problem, the happier customers will be.
Allow employees the freedom to make judgement calls when appropriate. Passing off a customer from one person to the other can prove costly and make the situation worse, so try to avoid it if you can.
You also need a degree of flexibility when handling customer complaints and solutions. Go the extra mile for unhappy customers while sticking to your business’ policies and guidelines. Don’t ever make a promise you can’t deliver on. Consider replacing or upgrading the product for free. In some cases, you can offer compensation in the form of a gift card or discount.
Open communication is important when it comes to handling complaints.
As mentioned before, social media has made it easier than ever for customers to provide feedback. Respond quickly to any complaints you receive through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram – the faster you do, the more professional it looks.
Give messages a personal feel – address customers by name. Thank them and remind them that their feedback is valuable. Apologise without making excuses. By being transparent, you show customers that your efforts to help them are genuine.
Don’t delete or ignore complaints – it comes off as aggressive and makes it look like you’ve got something to hide. Berating customers on social media can also severely damage your brand’s image. Be kind and courteous; acknowledge even the angriest customer and try to diffuse the situation before it gets worse.
6. Improve customer support
When handling customer complaints, you need to have efficient customer service.
No matter how great your product or service is, what will stick in customers’ minds is how they were treated. Empathise with them and be patient. Treat an angry customer like you would a talkative one.
Adapt according to the customer’s mood and convey your points clearly: Don’t let someone think they’re getting a product for free when they’re only getting it for half price.
Keep a friendly tone, stay focused and don’t spend too much time on one problem. Don’t end the conversation until you know a customer is satisfied. This is important when considering how to deal with customer complaints.
7. Record customer complaints
It might sound strange, but dealing with customer complaints can be good for business.
They can help identify areas that might need improving and provide inspiration for future products and services. They can also legally protect you in case a customer says something that could potentially damage your business or is completely untrue.
Recording customer complaints can also be used to improve the overall customer experience. It can be a great tool for understanding customer behaviour and expectations, which can be used to shape future marketing campaigns.
8. Follow up after resolving customer complaints
There’s no better way to retain loyal customers than to follow up after you resolve the issue. This lets them know that you appreciate their feedback and makes them feel valued.
It’s always good to follow up with customers offline after engaging on social media. Ask them whether they would prefer to talk via phone, email or private message.
Once a customer complaint has been resolved, encourage them to leave a review on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, which can help provide good publicity for your business and attract new customers.