Handling Complaints

Complaints can make or break a relationship between you and the customer. A single bad experience in the way a complaint is handled can send a customer packing for good. Conversely, the good news is a complaint can be an opportunity to nurture greater loyalty, for example: by fixing problems quickly and exceeding client expectations, in the process!

Let’s be honest, it can be a daunting prospect to have to deal with angry or disgruntled customers, so here’s some tips to help you successfully manage and resolve challenging customer conversations and complaints:

Tip 1 – Listen

Above all, listen carefully to what the customer has to say. Don’t interrupt or speak over the customer and avoid getting defensive or angry.

Tip 2 – Apologise

Phrases such as “I am sorry that this incident has occurred” or “ I apologise for the inconvenience that this issue has caused you” can be useful here…

Tip 3 – Show empathy

Ask thoughtful questions, demonstrating that you are genuinely concerned and really want to understand the situation so that the best solution can be found. Take time to acknowledge how the customer is feeling…frustrated, annoyed etc.

Tip 4 –  Confirm you fully understand the problem

Do this by playing back what you believe the customer has told you and getting them to confirm that your understanding is correct.

Tip 5 – Take Ownership

At the end of the day, all the customer wants is for their issue to be resolved as quickly as possible, and of course to their satisfaction. The ideal situation would be to give frontline staff the responsibility and authority to resolve the complaint in `real time’… essentially whilst they are talking to the client.

Any business wanting to stand out from a customer experience perspective really needs to employ a `first-time fix’ approach for complaints (and have means of measuring how effective they are at achieving this).

Tip 6 – Equip your staff

Determine (and deliver) what training is needed for staff to be successful in effectively diffusing difficult situations and enabling a swift resolution to client issues. This training should not only address the soft skills element but also explore the kinds of complaints likely to be raised, and what solutions can or can’t be offered. Additionally, you need to include any escalation processes, so front-line staff know exactly what to do if they are unable to fix the problem themselves.

Tip 7 – Set clear expectations

If a resolution can be agreed with the customer, then thank them for agreeing to it, trigger what action is required and then send confirmation that the agreed action has been completed.

If further investigations are needed to get to a solution, then explain this to the client giving them the contact details (name/telephone number/email) of the person in charge of resolving their complaint. Provide a clear timeline of when they should expect to receive further information from your company on how the investigation is progressing.

What next?

So, you might want to think about how your business shapes up with respect to handling complaints? A good start would be to look at the number of times customers have had to chase up complaints, and why? Ask members of staff how confident they feel about dealing with difficult customers and resolving complaints? Check if you have a clearly defined complaint process (and are all your staff are aware of it?).

If you have an accountant, they should be your first stop for business advice. If you don’t have an accountant or they can’t help, BuBul has a wide range of experts available.