Handling Customer Complaints Can Be a Gift
Customer complaints are a part of life for most businesses. Over the course of an organization’s lifetime, they will respond to a variety of both legitimate, and not-so-legitimate, customer grievances and criticisms. While dealing with angry, dissatisfied customers can be stressful, it’s crucial to keep in mind that customer complaints are an important part of the feedback loop. Handle them right and you just may create a loyal customer for life!
British website Marketingdonut.co.uk shared some great advice for dealing with customer complaints in a piece called “Golden Rules of Complaint Handling.” The article is worth reading in its entirety, but here I’ll share some of what I see as the key points to highlight.
Start Out by Assuming the Complaint is Legitimate
A complaining customer isn’t always the most pleasant person to deal with, and it can be tempting to react dismissively to complaints, particularly for small business owners and entrepreneurs who take great pride in their work. Nevertheless, you should approach complaints by first assuming that the customer has a valid issue. Get all the facts and evaluate the situation objectively. As mentioned earlier, customer complaints are an important part of the feedback loop for your business, and you’re not doing yourself any favors by ignoring legitimate issues. In fact you can learn a lot by simply listening!
Respond to All Complaints and Fix the Underlying Issues
Customers can be very forgiving if they feel their concerns are being addressed. The first critical step is to respond promptly, and that means being accessible at all times. That can be a challenge for solopreneurs and small businesses, but fortunately there are tools that can ensure your accessibility 24/7.
Naturally, you should let customers know that you appreciate their feedback, value their business and take their concerns seriously. But you also need to go a step further and address their issue. Customers are bound to be less forgiving when they face the same negative experience multiple times after already having notified you about it. Furthermore, you should assume that if one customer has encountered an issue, it is impacting others as well. It’s important to be both reactive to the complaining customer and proactive with respect to the rest of your customer base.
Train Staff and Management in Complaint Handling
Skilled front-line staff members are critical in effectively interacting with customers. This can present a challenge to small businesses, with tight budgets, that may have a high proportion of customer-facing staff comprised of relatively inexperienced employees. These could be recent graduates or even high-school students. It’s a mistake to assume these employees intuitively understand how to handle a rude, complaining customer, and the last thing you want is to further upset your customer by poorly handling their complaint. Invest some time in training your front-line staff and management in dealing with customer complaints.
Customer complaints are a crucial form of feedback, even if they aren’t always easy to listen to. But, if you take each complaint seriously, actively address customer issues and train your staff effectively, you can mitigate the impact of negative customer experiences and continuously improve your business. And, you just might find that you actually build business in the process!
Regardless of the size of your business, you can build an infrastructure that can help to ensure that you’re available and responsive to customers. We can help.