Customer complaints are a daily reality for most businesses. Your product or service might be top of the line. Your customer service may be best in class. Doesn’t matter because you are still going to get complaints.
However, don’t get me wrong. Customer complaint is actually good for your business in some ways. Customer complaints are a gold mine of valuable data that help us understand our customer base and improve retention.
For every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent. In other words, complaints give us insight into potentially pervasive problems that are bothering a large segment of our customer base. When customers complain, they are actively teaching you how to improve your product.
Here are some common mistakes that businesses should avoid:
Automated e-mails are not going to solve the problem as customer would not be happy with the response. Try to avoid all kind of automation when it comes to customer service. Technology can’t provide perfect replacement of that “one-on-one” experience. Plus, different customers prefer different modes of communication.
- Trying to handle customers too quickly
Some customer service personnel will assume that they know what the customer wants. When they answer their customer’s call, they rush to give them a solution to their problem. This can disgruntle your customer and could lead them to resent your company. To avoid losing customers, customer service personnel should practice the art of listening skills. Make sure they’re taking the time to listen to the customer, understand their specific problem, and offer a solution.
- Slow turnaround
We live in the time of on-demand. Thanks to the power of modern technology, we’ve become completely impatient. We want to have a quick turnaround time. Your customers expect the same. Having a speedy response not only draws them to your business but can win their long-term loyalty, too. Respond promptly to your customers’ questions and feedback, especially if it’s over social media where things move faster than the speed of light.
So, the question now is – how do we successfully resolve the issue?
When responding to a customer complaint, it’s important to do four specific things:
- Respond specifically to the issues brought up by the customer.
- Provide a specific apology that acknowledges any mistakes on your end.
- State exactly what you intend to do (or have already done) to make it right.
- Propose how you will improve the customer’s experience in the future.
Responding to complaints effectively and tactfully
- Don’t leave them hanging
More than 85 percent of customers think businesses should respond to emails within an hour, according to a survey by Toister Performance Solutions, a firm that focuses on customer service training. Similarly, 42 percent of customers expect one-hour response time on social media, according to a survey from the social media research project, The Social Habit.
Many customer complaints can’t be resolved in 60 minutes or less, but they can at least be addressed. If you need a few days to investigate the customer’s complaint, tell her so now, not after those few days. Your failure to respond might lead the customer to believe you’re not on top of customer service—or worse, that you don’t care, which only worsens the situation.
- Listen and apologize
No matter the business or the complaint, the first two steps to resolving a customer complaint are the same. Step one: listen to the customer’s experience in its entirety. Step two: apologize.
You don’t have to plead guilty to an offense every time a customer complains, but you do need to consider his point of view—to listen without interruptions. Make it clear that you understand why the customer is upset, even if you don’t agree with him. You may not be sorry that he simply didn’t like your product, but you can still be sorry that he had a disappointing experience. The simple act of listening and apologizing can be therapeutic enough to resolve the problem.
- Focus on the solution
After you’ve listened to the customer’s complaint and apologized, you can offer your side of the story—not an excuse, but an explanation. A customer’s misunderstanding or lack of information could have contributed to his complaint and learn more about your company’s intentions might help settle his emotions.
But keep it short: The more you say, the more you might create opportunities to start another argument. Instead, shift the conversation away from the problem and toward the solution.
Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep: You’re not going to drastically change your company’s offerings or operations based on the opinion of one person. But maybe you’re going to talk with an employee or adjust a process that caused the problem in order to prevent it from happening again. By explaining the actions you’re going to take, you show the customer that you valued his feedback and gave it serious consideration.