Research into complaint behaviour reveals that only a fraction of dissatisfied consumers complain to business and, thereby, give the company an opportunity to correct the problem. Consumers simply withdraw their patronage and criticize the company or the product to others.
Well-managed complaints can benefit your business and the reputation of your organization. Good business owners learn to see complaints as an opportunity to build strong, lasting relationships with customers and improve their customer service. Customer complaints give businesses valuable information about how they need to improve.
The impact a complaint has on your business is largely determined by you. If complaints are handled poorly, customers may withdraw their business and encourage others to do the same. Complaints that are handled well may help you retain existing customers and could result in new customers being referred to your business.
A BASIC COMPLAINTS HANDLING GUIDE
Here are some steps to help you manage customer complaints effectively:
- Listen to the complaint. Accept ownership of the problem. Apologise. Don’t blame others. Thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention.
- Be understanding. Remember, the person is complaining about your business, not about you personally. Be calm, cheerful and helpful. Where possible, let the customer know that you will take responsibility for resolving the problem.
- Record the complaint. Detail the complaint so that you and other staff know exactly what the problem is. Have one place to record complaints and the actions taken to resolve them. This lets you see any patterns emerge over time. Complaints about a particular process or product might indicate that changes need to be made. Staff can also see what was done to resolve complaints in the past.
- Make sure you have all the facts. Check that you understand the details while the person is making the complaint, and ask questions if necessary. This will also let them know that you are taking their complaint seriously.
- Discuss options for fixing the problem. At the very least, a sincere apology costs nothing. But think about what this complaint could cost you in lost business or a complaint to the Equal Opportunity Commission. Maybe you can provide a free product or discount a future service.
- Keep your promises. Don’t promise things that you can’t deliver. In handling complaints it is better to under-promise and over-deliver.
- Be quick. If complaints take several days to resolve or are forgotten, they can escalate.
- Follow up. Record the customer’s contact details and follow up to see if they were happy with how their complaint was handled. Let them know what you are doing to avoid the problem in the future.
- Reward your staff. Encourage and reward your staff for dealing with unhappy customers and handling their complaints well.
SOME ADDITIONAL COMPLAINTS HANDLING TIPS
Let’s look now at some final tips.
- Treat complaints as an opportunity and take them seriously;
- Actively seek and encourage complaints;
- Make the process of complaining easy for the customer;
- Understand that complaints may be about anything to do with your organization;
- Respond quickly and personally;
- Always Assume that the complaint is genuine;
- Listen, ask questions and probe to ensure that all information and facts have been gathered;
- Try to avoid jargon and other organizational specific language;
- Take notes and keep records;
- Paraphrase your understanding of the complaint;
- Accept blame where appropriate and apologize;
- Respond promptly;
- Never promise what you cannot deliver;
- Refer the customer to someone who can provide satisfaction or a solution if you are unable to.
- Keep the customer informed of time frames;
- Try to give the customer a number of solutions;
- Implement remedies quickly;
- Where possible do more than what the customer expects;
- Thank the customer for their feedback and for taking the time and energy to raise their complaint with you;
- Follow up;
See the Global online course in: Managing Complaints and Difficult Customers