If you know how to handle a customer complaint appropriately and effectively, then customers who frequently have issues will actually be more loyal to you. These customers are a godsend for one big reason: they help you to identify the weaknesses in your company and ultimately, improve it as you strive to be the best in your industry.
Below we have provided you with the model which we use to deal with our customer complaints.
Listen to the Complaints
Many employees view customer complaints as pointless and think to themselves that they’re just listening to a customer get upset. However, it’s a good idea to actually listen to what the customer is complaining about. Pay attention to what they’re saying, understand why they’re upset, and think of a solution to handle it and make it right.
By listening to the customer and appreciating their complaint, you can not only make things right, but you can sympathise with them. Show genuine sympathy for their situation, and if they get angry, stay calm. Remember, you don’t want to lose them as a customer over what is most likely a mild complaint, so maintain your composure during the ordeal even if the customer gets angry.
When you’re talking to the customer about their issue, don’t interrupt them. Make sure that when they’re talking to you, you wait for a few seconds before responding. This ensures that you get all of the details and that they don’t get further frustrated by having you cut them off.
To have good listening skills, you must:
- Pay attention to the customer.
- Be sympathetic towards the customer and understand why they’re upset.
- Show that you understand the problem and that you want to get to the bottom of their issue.
- Explain to them that you care about resolving the issue and that it’s your priority to have it dealt with.
Apologise to the Customer
One of the most common mistakes when it comes to handling a customer complaint is that the employee apologises too frequently, and without any passion.
Some employees forget to apologise for the issue, or don’t want to, because they know that the issue wasn’t directly their fault and so they don’t feel any sense of responsibility for it. If this is how you think, remember that you work alongside your colleagues and that while you shouldn’t take direct responsibility, you are representing your colleagues and your company in these situations.
When you are apologising, don’t say “I’m sorry” every two minutes; it doesn’t help the situation. Instead, say it only a couple of times.
After they’ve explained their issue, a simple “I apologise for the trouble that you’ve experienced; I’ll get right to the bottom of this issue for you” will do. After the issue is dealt with, something along the lines of “Again, I deeply apologise for the inconvenience this issue may have caused you, and if there’s anything else that we can help you with, let us know” is appropriate and effective.
Let’s take an accounting issue as an example. Sometimes the accounting department processes a payment wrong or makes some other mistake. We’re only human; mistakes happen. However, if a customer notices a payment issue, they will likely get very upset about it and complain respectively.
In a situation like this, take a step back and explain that you are in the process of working with the accounting department to make sure that the problem is handled as soon as possible. If their problem is more complex, as accounting issues often are, make sure that you get all of the details before you dig deeper into it. Don’t be afraid to ask them for more information.
While you are apologising to a customer, the following things can be helpful:
- Take full responsibility for the mistake, and don’t cause a fuss about it.
- Be sincerely apologetic towards the customer.
- Be supportive of the customer during this stressful time – they’ll appreciate it.
- If the encounter is face-to-face, make eye contact and don’t be emotionless.
Acknowledge the Problem
Acknowledging the problem is just as important as apologising to the customer. It shows that you have good listening skills and that you’re able to understand the inconvenience the problem has caused them.
Sometimes the problem will be the customer’s fault and they’ll feel dreadful for it, so they’ll get angry and upset with themselves and, unfortunately, some of that anger may be inflicted onto you. Don’t let this get to you. In fact, embrace their anger and accept full responsibility for the problem. It may not be your problem, but you’ll ease their mind and make them feel better about the situation.
Acknowledge any further issues that the problem could have caused, take full responsibility for the problem regardless of whether you actually were, and hold yourself accountable.
Fix the Problem
Finally, it’s time to handle and fix the problem. You’ve listened to the customer’s complaint, you’ve gathered all of the information that you need, and you’ve apologised to them for any inconvenience that they may have experienced. Now, it’s time to get to the root of the problem and fix it.
However, before you fix the issue, you have to keep in mind that there are two sides to it: how the problem has impacted the customer, and how you can fix the issue itself. In situations like this, we suggest that you use a “friendly fix” method. This simply means that you come up with a solution which can fix the initial problem and satisfy the customer due to the inconvenience caused.
A common misinterpretation of a friendly and effective fix would be to give the customer a refund. This might fix the problem in the short term, but you still have an unhappy customer who probably won’t return to your business again.
From our experience, if you’ve made a mistake, you should make sure that your fix favours the customer.
Keep in mind that while this step of the customer complaint process is the cherry on top of the proverbial ice cream, the steps leading up to the fix can also change how the customer feels about the situation and the company.
This is why it’s vital that you listen to the customer to determine what their issue is, acknowledge the issue and understand the inconvenience that it has caused them, accept responsibility for the issue, and look into a possible friendly fix for the problem. If you don’t follow this model and just “wing it”, so to speak, then you could risk losing a customer.
A few key points to take away from this article on how to handle complaints effectively include:
- Provide a friendly fix.
- Make sure that the appropriate action is taken.
- Come up with a solution which is both optimal for the customer and appropriate for the situation.
- Depending on the severity of the issue, give the customer compensation for the problem.
The model which we’ve discussed today is very easy to follow and makes customer complaints a lot easier to deal with. Complaints are something which should be embraced, not feared. If you don’t receive any, then you’re doing a fantastic job, but the majority of businesses do receive complaints from time to time and use them to better their company and get back on top.
For further details please visit the respective section on our page on consumer behavior and psychology courses.