As your small business grows, so too will the likelihood of you receiving complaints.
These could be about a service you provide, a product you sell, or an experience that a customer has gone through. Whatever the reason for complaints, rather than viewing them as totally negative, try looking at them as an opportunity to improve both a relationship with a customer and your business as a whole.
With this in mind, we have compiled a list of our top tips for managing and resolving customer complaints. Let’s get started.
1. Act quickly
If the complaint has been sent in through an email, live chat message, social media post, or in the form of an online review (such as on Trustpilot, Feefo or Google), make contact with the customer as soon as you can. This does not mean that you need a resolution already prepared for them, what’s important is that the customer knows you have seen their correspondence and are looking into it.
Use this initial contact as an opportunity to get all the facts you will need, and to assure the customer that they have been heard. The purpose of this is to stop the issue from escalating, which is particularly important if the feedback has been shared publicly (in these circumstances, diplomatically suggest to the customer that future correspondence is done privately via email or telephone).
Responding promptly does not mean responding outside of work hours. This sets a dangerous precedent, as the customer will then expect an immediate response whatever time they contact you.
2. Listen and then repeat
If speaking to the customer, you must let them explain the problem without interruption. Being cut off will only frustrate them further. Let them explain what has happened, whilst listening and noting down what has gone wrong.
Only when they have finished should you thank them for getting in touch, apologise for the problem they are experiencing (even if it is a misunderstanding on their part – although the customer is always right!) and then repeat the issue back to them to reiterate that you have listened and understood.
Even if you need to collect information from the customer before you can look into their situation, let them explain first. It does not matter if this is a common complaint that you can fix within seconds. You may have had this conversation numerous times before, but this is new to the customer. Let them talk.
3. Remain professional
As obvious as this may sound, you must be polite and remain professional at all times. When a customer is being rude – and it will happen – never stoop to their level. Try and appreciate that the customer’s rudeness is borne out of frustration. Something is not going as they expected, and they’re looking to you for the solution.
The situation will only be exacerbated if the customer senses any anger or pettiness on your part – and ultimately it won’t make you feel any better or resolve the problem.
If a customer is being extremely rude or offensive, do your absolute best to remain calm throughout your communications, but consider whether or not you want to continue working with them once a resolution has been reached. If you wish to cease your relationship with a customer, notify them of this, but remain polite – as hard as this may be.
4. Give the complaint an owner
For more complex complaints where a resolution isn’t immediately available, if possible, assign the customer to a suitable team member who they can work with. This person should be knowledgeable in the area where the problem has occurred, and will save the customer from having to repeat the issue every time they correspond with your business.
Continually having to tell the same story over and over again will anger the customer, and give the impression that a resolution is nowhere in sight and that they’re being ignored.
By giving them an individual who owns the complaint from beginning to end, you are demonstrating that you are taking their complaint seriously and working towards a solution.
Any employee tasked with overseeing a complaint should clearly document the entire process. This should be shared amongst your team from the get-go, just in case the employee is absent mid-complaint.
5. Keep the customer updated and deliver
At no stage of the process should the customer be unclear on what the next steps are. End each interaction by telling them how you are going to proceed, and when they can expect to hear from you next (and document this internally). It’s imperative that you then deliver on this.
If you tell them they will receive an email within 24 hours, ensure that the email gets delivered. If you tell them they can expect a call back on a certain day, ensure that the call is made. Failing to deliver on any promises will relinquish any trust the customer has in you, and make them that much harder to satisfy.
6. Ask the customer for their ideal resolution
Not all problems will have an obvious solution. In these circumstances, in your initial conversations with a customer, don’t be afraid to ask them what they want. You won’t necessarily be able to deliver, but this will give you a clear indication of their intent.
The obvious solutions are generally replacements, repairs, and refunds.
This of course depends on what your business does, but sometimes a customer just wants an apology and an admission that your service wasn’t quite up to the expected standard. In these instances, we recommend still providing some form of compensation, such as a gift voucher. This approach can save all parties a considerable amount of stress.
7. Learn from your mistakes
At the same time as fixing individual issues, you must take steps to ensure that they do not occur again. Schedule a session where, once a month, you review all complaints that you have received and then look into ways you can permanently resolve them.
Maybe it’s a simple content change on your website to clarify something. Perhaps a product isn’t good enough and you need a new supplier. Or a team member isn’t adequately trained in a particular area.
When you come up with a permanent fix, reach out to the customer who notified you of the problem, thank them for their feedback, and highlight what you have done to make sure it does not happen again.
When it comes to complaints, it’s all too easy to blame the customer. But genuine insight can often be found at the heart of every problem a customer has.
Thanks for reading
So there you have it, how to manage and resolve customer complaints.
Receiving poor feedback will never be the highlight of your day; however, by dealing with customer complaints correctly, you can turn a negative into a positive by improving upon the services that you offer, and increasing the chances of a customer returning to you.
We hope you have found this post helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions.