4 Easy Steps to Dealing with Customer Complaints in the Heat of the Moment

really-bad-customer-serviceManaging customer complaints and problems is part of being in business. At some point, everyone has to deal with an unhappy customer (yes, even the best businesses). The challenge is to figure out how to handle the situation in a way that leaves the customer thinking you operate a fantastic business, even though they’ve experienced a problem that might have slipped through. A well managed complaint can potentially turn a lost sale into a loyal, lifetime customer.

We’ve come up with four easy steps on how to effectively deal with customers complaints in the heat of the moment.

  • Listen carefully
    Firstly, don’t get defensive, but instead try to listen and really understand the customer’s point of view. Remember that the customer is not attacking you personally; they have a problem and they’re upset (and this can manifest in different ways in different people!).  Realise that the customer is complaining because they hope that you can help solve their problem. Repeat back what you hear and show that you’ve listened.
  • Ask questions in a concerned and empathetic manner
    The more information you can get from the customer, the better you will understand their perspective. Ask questions and establish the details and facts of the complaint. Remember, your goal is to solve the problem as best you can. The customer needs to feel like you’re on their side and that you empathise with their situation.
  • Apologise and don’t play the blame game
    Be gracious, keep your cool and remember, it doesn’t really matter whose fault it is. Don’t blame another person or department and don’t put the blame back onto the customer (although they may have played a role in the problem). Just say, “I’m so sorry about that”. The great thing about the simple act of apologising is that when they sense that you are sincerely sorry, it usually diffuses the situation.
  • Offer to make amends and solve the problem then and there
    Research shows that customers prefer the person that they are speaking with to instantly solve their problem. When complaints are passed up the chain of command, they become more expensive to handle and this only adds to the customers’ frustration. Sometimes the best way to handle a complaint is to compensate the customer for a bad experience. This could be in the form of a refund, a free service, free product, or some type of special treatment on their next visit. There are many examples where, for a very small cost, a business has managed to turn a bad situation into a great one. Front line staff should know what they are able to offer and the business culture should be focussed on customer satisfaction. (When evaluating the cost of compensation, keep in mind the potential lifetime value of the customer, as well as the word-of-mouth that a happy customer or unhappy customer can generate.)

fixitHaving a simple complaints process is the first step to managing customer problems – be sure your staff are aware of, and have been trained in, these complaints steps.

Customer complaints are nothing to be ashamed of, as all businesses experience problems from time to time. What matters is how the business responds when something does go wrong. Remember, the greatest asset of any business is its customers and a complaint is handled effectively, the customer can end up being a passionate advocate for your business and brand.

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3 responses to “4 Easy Steps to Dealing with Customer Complaints in the Heat of the Moment”

  1. rachel says :

    Sometimes there are no “amends” to be made – we didn’t do anything wrong or different to any other time in the delivery of our service…this person is simply the vocal minority who wants our service tailored to suit her (and to hell with our other clients – surely they think just like she does?!) Can you offer suggestions for saying ‘no’ and resetting her expectations while ensuring she feels heard?

    • Caryn says :

      Rachel, I actually think you may have missed the point of the article. The customer is the one you need to keep happy, irrespective of your personal views on whether they are “the vocal minority” or not. In essence without that customer, and the many people they will relay their experience to, you don’t have a business. Every customer is important and needs to listened to and made to feel important, not like the “inconvenience” you are portraying them as.

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