Whether you’re in the industry of real estate, banking, consulting or providing a product (or any other), you will get customer complaints. It’s just part of doing business. Businesses aren’t perfect with providing their service or product 100% of the time. Mistakes happen. Both processes and people alike fail. While prevention is always the best method, this is about handling customer complaints when (not if) they arise.
Why Do Complaints Occur?
As a business, you likely have a brand promise when providing a product or service, whether it’s stated or not. Disney’s is “creating happiness through magical experiences.” Subaru’s brand promise is “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” And simply put, Apple’s brand promise is “think different.” Complaints normally occur when these brand promises aren’t kept. When you didn’t have the most magical experience on your Disney trip, you might file a complaint. As a consumer, it’s their promise and it’s what you expect. Nothing less.
How to Handle Customer Complaints:
While there are multiple and almost endless ways to handle a customer complaint (good or bad ways), here are some effective ways to handle them. Again, this is not a fully exhaustive list of how to handle customer complaints. I encourage you to do your own research and find ways that work best for you in your industry and product/service type.
Encourage the customer to tell their story
No matter how bad it sounds or looks, you have to encourage the customer to tell their story, aka their complaint. Listen to understand and acknowledge the customer’s concerns, whether the reason is rational or not. When listening, think about a bad experience you’d had with a brand. How was it resolved? Were you satisfied with the outcome? If not, how would you have liked it to be resolved?
Determine the facts
It’s easy to be swayed by a customer’s emotional complaint, but sometimes it’s not all that accurate. Sometimes the facts aren’t exactly as the customer explains them. Sort for the facts of the matter, respectfully of course.
What really happened?
Did the product or service fail?
Or was the customer just not end satisfied with the product because of matters out your control? (i.e. – they didn’t do their diligence of research).
All stages, but especially this stage must be handled with great care so the customer doesn’t feel judged or as if you don’t trust them.
Offer a solution
After the customer has told their story (voiced their complaint) and the facts have been established, it’s time to be solution oriented. Solutions can vary widely. Also, depending on your industry, solutions to problems can be different.
For a product, it might be as simple as giving a refund to the customer. For a service, the solution might be to offer a discount on the future services rendered. Each complaint is different and a solution to the complaint should be appropriate to what the customer’s complaint was.
Follow through with action
There’s nothing worse than being let down for a second time, so don’t do it to your customers. Ensure that the solution is followed through with and that the customer’s complaint is settled. Since the brand promise didn’t live up to its slogan the first time, not is the chance to prove your brand promise. Now is the time to change what could have been negative feelings about your brand into positive ones because you followed through with action.
Achieve customer satisfaction
Although the customer complained about their dissatisfaction with your brand, the solution should have solved this leading to a satisfied customer. Businesses should be monitoring their customer satisfaction levels to create repeat customers. Because you handled the complaint effectively, you now have a chance of them becoming a repeat customer.
In summary, handling customer complaints is a process. Some complaints are easier than others to handle, but all should be taken seriously until the facts are discovered. As mentioned above, this isn’t the only process or steps you can take to handling a customer complaint. To avoid customers complaints, it’s important to understand that not everyone is your client.
Rebekah A. Dull, BA
Consulting | Marketing | Websites