No matter how customer-friendly and streamlined your business is, customer complaints are inevitable.
According to Esteban Kolsky of ThinkJar, 67% of customer churn is preventable if the customer issue is resolved at the first engagement.
Knowing how to handle complaints effectively is something every business should be aware of and ready to put into action through its customer-facing teams.
With that in mind, here are our 7 top tips to help you deal with customer complaints.
1. Don’t take it personally
A customer that feels they have had a bad experience might be angry and possibly rude.
It can be easy to let emotions get in the way, but it’s important for your customer service agents to remain calm and set their emotions aside.
Ensure your customer service team knows to apologise to customers for their perceived poor experience (unless this will present a potential legal issue), even if they think the customer hasn’t been let down and the complaint is unwarranted.
2. Record it
Customer complaints allow you to learn. But, unfortunately, it’s estimated that there are 26 others who don’t say anything for every customer who complains.
Implement a complaint management system or process to allow your employees to log complaints and manage them efficiently. Logging all complaints in one place will help you spot trends and recurring issues, giving you a great opportunity to improve your product or service.
Making sure there is a record of every complaint will make your service team’s job a lot easier if the customer comes back again. It can also be audited by management and used for training at a later date.
3. Find an immediate solution or escalate and investigate
According to The White House Office of Consumer Affairs, it’s up to 7 times more expensive to attract a new customer than to retain a current customer.
Finding an immediate solution is, therefore, the most desirable outcome. This shows you care and often makes good business sense (why spend more time than necessary on a complaint when you can resolve it there and then, and keep the customer happy?).
In some cases, though, your agent will need to escalate. This might lead to an investigation to establish the facts surrounding a complaint.
If an escalation is not immediate, it is critical that your customer’s expectations are managed and that you deliver on your commitments.
Your customer will likely have been seeking immediate resolution, so make sure you tell them what will happen next and when they can expect to hear from you – and then make sure you deliver. Broken promises will only make the situation worse.
4. Show the customer you care
As Theodore Roosevelt once said: “Your customer doesn’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.”
Customer service representatives need to be able to put themselves in the shoes of the customer. Therefore, they need to be attentive and understanding, empathetic and diffuse tricky situations.
Empowering your agents to be able to ‘go the extra mile’ to ensure a complaint is dealt with is key to converting an angry customer into a brand advocate.
5. Be prepared to refuse unrealistic or non-compliant requests
Whilst most customer requests are reasonable, there are the odd challenging customers who may want your company rules to be broken “just this once.”
Whilst the pressure of a situation may tempt you or an agent to make a special allowance, it could lead to a worse situation in the future (particularly if your now-delighted customer shares their experience to a wide audience that may have experienced a similar issue).
In these circumstances, where your customer services employees have to refuse a request, it’s all about dealing with the situation attentively and sincerely. The customer service assistant will need to be helpful and empathetic of their customer’s situation.
Trying to find an alternative mutually-agreed solution, rather than simply saying “no,” will demonstrate your willingness to put things right.
6. Formally close the complaint
Never leave a complaint unresolved. Remember your customer’s perception of your company will relate to their last engagement with you, so make sure you end your conversation positively.
Before ending the conversation, it’s important to confirm with the customer that they’re happy with the outcome and that there aren’t any other complaints or issues they’d like to raise.
This will make sure the last interaction has been a good one in the hope that they’ll return.
7. Learn from it
It’s often said that a complaint is a gift from your customers. Remember to use each complaint as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself:
- Was the complaint justified?
- How could we prevent this from happening again?
- Did we deal with the complaint well?
- Is the customer happy with the outcome?
By using the insight from every complaint you receive – whether justified or not – you will improve your product, streamline your processes and retain your customers for years to come.
It’s all about meeting expectations
It’s important to remember that complaints usually stem from a mismatch between customer expectations and the experience they actually have.
Prevention is always better (and cheaper!) than the cure. So try to avoid creating situations that are likely to create this disconnection.
This means only promising what you can realistically deliver, avoiding ambiguity, and being honest with customers. Ultimately, this is all within your sphere of control. It can often to pay to remember that old adage: “underpromise, over deliver.”
But when complaints do arise, try to use them as an opportunity to delight your customers. Build a reputation for providing great service.