“Complaint” is not a Dirty Word
We only have one chance to make a first impression. We all know that to succeed in business we need to get it right the first time and every time.
However, mistakes and misunderstandings do happen and there is usually an opportunity to recover if handled properly.
Unfortunately, statistics indicate that more customers than not don’t complain to the business they are dealing with but rather just take their custom elsewhere. Moreover, unhappy people will tell more people about the cause of their unhappiness than happy satisfied people will tell of their good experience. This human nature does not help with word of mouth advertising!!
So how does one recover from a complaint? In a nut shell, FIX IT ASAP and in such a way to reduce retelling of the incident.
Not always that simple I hear you say … that’s right! It depends on the nature and severity of the complaint and the facts of the circumstance.
One key strategy to ensure starting on the right foot in a difficult situation is the current relationship with the complainant. If the nature of the business facilitates, ensure good and nurtured relationships with your customers. Starting with a strong relationship will encourage empathy and willingness from the customer to resolve things with you rather than going elsewhere.
If a customer complains don’t be defensive and retain composure at all times. Address the customer by name and demonstrate empathy for their frustration and anger whether at fault or not.
Offer an apology even if the issue is not your fault – for example, “I’m very sorry you are upset” – such response does not admit blame but does establish some rapport with the customer and shows your interest.
Give the customer your full attention and demonstrate this both verbally (ie, in the responses you give) and with your body language. Maintain eye contact with the customer, don’t fold your arms or use facial expressions which indicate not caring, disinterest or boredom. Don’t allow interruptions, such as taking phone calls or dealing with staff or other customers, when dealing with a complaint.
Don’t make excuses or blame others. Remember, the customer is looking for resolution and not to be fobbed off or worn down by explanation.
If you can’t resolve the matter on the spot, don’t explain the steps you will take to resolve the situation. Don’t lie about what you will or won’t do as this can make things worse. If you tell the customer you will contact them within two days then contact them within two days if only to tell them you are still investigating things and to keep them informed as to where you are at.
Endeavour to make the customer part of the solution … let them know what you can do (not what you can’t so) and see if you can find out what will turn the customer’s dissatisfaction in to satisfaction. Do they want a refund, discount, replacement etc.
If the customer agrees to a solution, act quickly. Don’t create another problem by dragging the chain. Finally, follow up with the customer to strengthen the relationship for the future.