Complaints are a normal part of the business. No matter what kind of business you run, how you run it and what happens, there are always going to be some customer complaints. The aim should of course be to have as few as possible, but it would be impossible to keep it down to zero – though of course, aiming for that might well benefit the business in many ways. So with complaints being a normal part of the process of running a business, the question becomes: how should you deal with complaints and what kind of process should you generally follow?
In this post, we are going to discuss this in some detail. By the end, you will have a much stronger sense of why complaints happen, what the best approach to take with them generally is, and how you can make sure that you are going to avoid them even cropping up as often in the future. So let’s take a look at some of the main things you’ll want to bear in mind when it comes to those concerns.
First and foremost, it must be said that speed is a hugely important factor in dealing with customer complaints. A rapid dispute resolution is a happier one, and that’s what customers are always hoping for. The sooner you deal with a complaint in a satisfactory way, the happier the customer is likely going to be. That is something that can of course be challenging at times, and it’s easier said than done, but nonetheless you should be aiming to deal with every complaint that passes through your business as swiftly as you possibly can.
Much of what we will look at below will help you to ensure that, but for now it’s a good idea to think about setting up some processes which are going to make dealing with complaints easier and quicker. If you already have processes in place, it is just going to be so much easier to manage these complaints with speed. And no matter what else, you’ll find that having a lot of speed is one thing that helps to keep customers from being too upset or annoyed with you.
The attitude that you take when dealing with customers is really important too. And it’s something they can sense really quickly in the person they are speaking with, so it’s vital that you really make it clear to your customer services team just how important this is to get right. Above all, you need to ensure that customers are always spoken to as calmly as possible. Not only is this a matter of retaining a certain professionalism, it also helps ensure that they are going to be less likely to escalate their own emotions, which is really important if you want to keep a handle on things.
So having calm staff helps a lot, and making sure that there are some processes in place for keeping things generally easygoing. This is going to mean that you avoid the worst of the situation, anyway, for instance when someone really flies off the handle, and it retains a professional air, as we said, which helps with branding and reputation.
Obtain The Facts
In any complaint process, it’s always important to establish the facts early on. You need to know what has actually happened and what has happened in the view of the customer. Despite the old adage, the customer is not always right. Sometimes they are quite wrong! Of course, you shouldn’t say this to them, but you should remember that what they say and what the truth is are not always the same thing.
Through speaking with them and looking at evidence of various kinds, records and so on, you should be able to obtain the facts about what happened, and this is going to help in working out what needs to happen next. So make sure that you are doing this appropriately and quickly, but also with thoroughness, because you need to make sure that it is actually going to get to the truth.
Once you know what happened and you can understand the customer’s concern, it’s time to communicate that back to them. And how you do that turns out to be hugely important as well.
Acknowledge The Issue
Now you can take a moment to acknowledge what has gone wrong. This should be an honest moment where you are owning up to the situation, and it’s here that the customer being right does come into play. Regardless of whether it’s a genuine occurrence or just a misunderstanding, you need to make the customer aware that you are in full comprehension of what went wrong, and that you are ready to fix it with them.
Very often, just this acknowledgement is vital for helping to heal the relationship between the business and the customer. They will know that you are listening to them, and they will probably start to feel quite a bit better already, even before you have started actually making any changes and fixing the problem directly. So you can see how important it is to directly acknowledge the problem, in voice or in writing.
It also opens you up to the next stage, which is where you actually start to fix things. So without this acknowledgement part of the process, you are not going to get very far, and your customer is not going to feel that anything is actually happening.
Offer A Few Solutions
Now it is time to actually get down to the nuts and bolts of the problem and try to fix it in some way. What you need to do here is inform the customer of the best one or two ways that the problem can be dealt with. Notice that you are offering them the option of a couple of solutions, to make them feel in control and as though they have the final say – which they should do, actually, within reason.
Those solutions can vary a lot depending on what the problem is and what you are actually able to do. But you should make sure that you are only offering solutions which you can actually put into place with certainty, and which you are sure will offer a reasonable way out of the impasse. If you offer something and it turns out not to be effective, then that is worse than having never offered anything at all. It’s important to remember here, as in so many other cases of customer service, to ‘under promise and over deliver’.
Anyway, the customer will then have a chance to say which solution they prefer, and from there you can then start to put things into place in the appropriate way.
It’s always a good idea to make sure that you thank the customer at the end of the resolution process. This is a matter of showing good faith and trying to keep the lines of communication open for the future, in case that should be important. It shows that you are grateful for their custom, and that you want them to remain a customer. And it’s just a formal and polite way to end the conversation, which helps to keep things professional and calm, as we saw was so important at the start of this article.
Of course, you should take care that the thank you is not too mawkish or that it comes off as fake. You want it to be genuine, and the best way to ensure that is to make sure that you really mean it. It’s these kinds of simple human touches that really make a world of difference when you are dealing with customers, and which is especially important when you are dealing with their complaints.
Avoid Future Complaints
All that is well and good, but you obviously want to make sure that you are having as few complaints as possible in the future too. Ideally, you would want to never have to do any of that above. So the real question is: how can you make sure that you avoid all future complaints as much as possible? As it happens, this might be easier than you think, and it’s mostly about taking feedback from the complaints that you do get and working with them.
You might be surprised at how much this can help, and how eager customers are to help in this way too. Using that rich data source, you are going to be able to build a much better business and a better experience for the customer too, and one that results in far fewer complaints. That is always going to be really important for your business and your customer.
With all that in mind, you should be able to deal with customer complaints a lot more effectively and easily, and with great grace. So that is something that you should think about keenly if you want to make sure you are doing right by your customers.