Customer Complaints

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Every business will eventually encounter customer complaints. How the business deals with customer complaints is a true measure of the customer focus of the company. A customer focused company will enjoy a positive reputation among customers. A positive reputation is more important than ever before because unhappy customers are quick to express their dissatisfaction on online forums. Prospective customers are increasingly checking out business’ reputations on those same online forums. While unhappy customers are quick to proclaim their feelings, satisfied customers are not so quick to tell everyone. It is the more-than-just-satisfied customer that goes online to tell about it. Exceptional customer service motivates customers to provide positive reviews. A customer complaint offers an opportunity for a business to demonstrate their exceptional customer service and generate a great positive review.

Some points to keep in mind when dealing with customer complaints:

  • You should provide a very easy-to-access place for customers to complain directly to you instead of on a public forum where you have little input. Be sure your website has a contact link and other contact information.
  • Don’t wait. Respond to every complaint quickly. Contact the customer to acknowledge the complaint and offer to discuss the problem further.
  • It goes without saying you should be polite. If you don’t already know this you could be in trouble already. Try to see complainants as people not problems.
  • Try to see the complaint from the customer’s perspective. The customer does not know the recent history of your company – he/she only knows what she got from you. She does not know that the issue she has was caused by a computer glitch or a new employee or a hurricane at your warehouse. Let the customer believe you are truly surprised that he was not happy and you want to fix it.
  • Acknowledge the customer’s problem. Don’t begin the process by denying a problem. If there was no problem your customer would not be contacting you. Listen to the complaint and you will uncover the real cause of the problem. It might not be you company’s problem but don’t assume that without first listening to the customer. If your company is not the problem, try to provide information so the customer can direct the complaint to the proper entity.
  • You must have a way to disengage when a customer becomes abusive or irrational. No one is expected to tolerate abuse – even from a customer. Saying “I’m sorry, we’ll have to stop this conversation now.” is one way to disengage. Do not try to argue with an irrational customer.
  • Ideally you will have staff on hand that have been properly trained in customer complaints. Also some people are better suited to this functions than others. Find the best people for the duty.

Every customer complaint has an underlying cause. Customers do not decide to complain without some reason. Understanding the complaint will help you diagnose the real problem. If you are reviving multiple complaints about similar issues there probably is a very real problem.

Problems are most easily fixed at the source.

  • Ask questions about how your business is doing. Accept the feedback and use it to track down the sources of the problems. It might be as simple as a typo in the online description or as bad as a disgruntled employee intentionally sabotaging your business.
  • Talk to your staff. The people who deal with customer complaints can report what they’re hearing from customers.
  • Regularly audit your processes to keep then up to date with business conditions.
  • Do not fear making changes. Consider the expense of change as an investment in future profit.
  • Complaints can be a tool for improvement. View them as such and everyone benefits. A very positive reputation promotes more business and sometimes attracts better employees.

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