The thing we all hate happens. We get a customer complaint. It is inevitable that we will all get an unhappy customer at times but it is how we deal with them that matters.
We have two choices. We can either go on the defensive and potentially make matters worse, or we can use the opportunity to learn and improve our business for the future.
Problems are pregnant with possibilities
Generally, unless there is a fundamental fault with the
product or service you are providing (and which you need to acknowledge and fix
immediately), complaints arise from a misunderstanding between parties.
It may something as simple as an order arriving on a date
that the customer believes is late but you believe is on time. This will
lead to you needing to set out your delivery policy in a more clear way.
It may be you supply a product such as a handbag and a customer complaint is the bag is not as large as shown in the picture. This leads to more details needed with your images. Put the bag against something for scale in pictures or quote measurements.
But whatever the complaint, most can be resolved if dealt
with in the right manner.
I met a client recently who had received a complaint and her reaction was to say ‘how dare he?’ and tell me how she was going to phone him and tell him in no uncertain terms how unhappy she was with him. I can just about guarantee 100% with this attitude that this customer will never do business with my client again and will more than likely tell friends and family never to deal with her again either.
I sat her down and asked her to put herself in the
customer’s shoes. Something had happened that caused him to be unhappy
and less than satisfied. Finding out what this was and how to avoid the
situation again in the future was imperative. She needed to look upon
this complaint as an opportunity to improve her business so that she did not
find herself in the same situation again in the future and to help her improve
customer satisfaction to retain other clients.
And again, very recently, I had someone who lost their key client. Why? Because he dared to complain about the standard of work and she took umbrage at this and had an argument with him over it. She is now left struggling to replace the income he took elsewhere.
How to deal with a customer complaint
The first thing to do is to stay calm and try not to take
the complaint personally. The complainant is usually dissatisfied with
the product or service and not you personally. Try to distance yourself
and your feelings and put things into perspective. Taking things
personally will only lead to an emotional response that is likely to make
Acknowledge the complaint
You then need to acknowledge the customer complaint and apologise for how the complainant is feeling. This is not accepting responsibility but is showing empathy for how the other person feels and letting them know you wish to help.
Get the complaint in writing
Wherever possible, ask for the complaint in writing. Or if the person is complaining to you verbally, let them know you are going to write everything down so you can ensure you have all the facts and do not forget anything. This can help as when someone starts to write, they can realise how unreasonable they may be or how they may have overreacted somewhat. Also, if they are in front of you and angry, they will see that you cannot write as fast as they speak and so will have to slow down, which in return will give them more time to breathe and calm down.
Take time to review
You do not need to give a solution immediately if you do not
want to. You can let them know that you are going to review the
complaint, look into what has happened and will get them back to them with a
response in a specified timescale.
This both gives the complainant the satisfaction that you
have listened and something is being done and also gives you the time to
consider what has happened and what you will do to resolve the situation.
Decide upon a solution or response
Now you need to get on and look into the situation and
decide what you are going to do. This will depend entirely upon your
business and what the complaint relates to. It could be a refund, a
product replacement or simply an apology and assurance it won’t happen again if
If however, you find the complaint to be unfounded, be
careful with your response. Be clear that you have investigated the
matter, fully understand their frustration but then explain why you feel there
is not a complaint to answer.
Respond to the complainant
Do make sure you feedback to the customer within the timescale given or be prepared for the complaint to be escalated upon.
Always stay calm, speak slowly if talking to the customer,
and assure them you are taking the complaint seriously as you value their
Even if you cannot come to an amicable solution, they will
hopefully appreciate that you have taken the time and trouble to listen and try
to do something for them.
Document every customer complaint
Now document everything. Just in case this complaint
does not get resolved and is taken further, or resurrects its ugly head in the
future, make sure you have all conversations and facts documented with dates
The exception to the rule
There is always the exception to the rule of course and you may have the misfortune to come across someone who complains just for the fun of it. This person is just out to cause trouble and the best thing to do is to apologise for the way they are feeling and state that you are not a good fit for each other and therefore it will be best to not deal with each other again. Do not let these people bully you or get you to cave in to unreasonable demands.
Just remember, the customer will not so much remember what
you said, but more how you made them feel. Do your best to leave them
feeling you took the time to take them seriously and valued their custom.
You may not do business with them again, but it may a good case of damage
limitation as if they know you genuinely cared, they are less likely to bad
mouth you to future prospects.
Hopefully, by using this method, any customer complaint you have will be dealt with amicably and gain you a reputation for excellent customer care.
Now then, quite a few women I have spoken with recently have told me they are feeling exhausted (and I include myself in that group)
When we feel tired and exhausted, the immediate tendency is to rest. We take time out. We sleep, meditate, take a bath, have a massage etc.
Yes, these things are important and you do need to rest but something I have learned along the way is that rest must be interspersed with activity. Sometimes, particularly when we are feeling low, continual resting can exacerbate the situation. The less we do, the less energy we have.
It really can help to beat exhaustion by getting up and do something active. This doesn’t have to be a 10-mile run. It could be something as simple as putting on your favourite upbeat music and having a boogie around the kitchen. Ok, you don’t have to go quite as far as the picture below but you get my drift.
But I’m simply too tired I hear you say. Yes, it can be incredibly hard to get up and move when you are feeling drained and exhausted but just take it in tiny steps.
Rather than thinking you have to go for a run, just put on your running gear and decide to go for a 10-minute walk. Once you are out the door you may just find that you want to jog for a minute or two. Don’t plan to dance. Just put the music on and see what happens. Do 10-star jumps. Or 5 if 10 seem too much. Or even 2. Something is better than nothing. It’s usually that initial moment of action is all that is needed to help change our mindset and get us moving.
Movement can help release energy and endorphins which in turn make us feel better. Getting the balance of rest and activity is key when we are feeling low. Try it for yourself and let me know in the comments below if it works for you.
Everyone tells you to visualise and focus on what you want to achieve and it will come but try as you may, when the chips are down and you don’t know how you are going to pay the mortgage this month, staying positive and seeing a wealthy future is nigh on impossible.
You try to focus but every thought is consumed by the blinding panic of knowing the money has run out. Your chest feels like it is being crushed and you struggle to control the rising panic.
But it will be ok. Just read another self-help book and manifest the money.
Here’s the flaw in the plan.
Manifestation gurus tell you what to do but then also include their disclaimer that things don’t happen overnight. But you need the money now!! You don’t have time to let the manifestation work its magic. Time has run out.
What can you do to stem the rising panic that is threatening to engulf you and suck you in into its dark depths forever, never to return?
Get some perspective.
This will not kill you. There are others who have gone before you and will follow. They have survived and will continue to do so.
Sit down and look at your exact financial situation. Do a cash flow spreadsheet. You now know exactly where you are and can now plan to bridge the gap of where you need to be.
Look at your cash flow and cut out the luxuries. Don’t despair. This is a short term solution until you are back on track. Cancel sky tv. Change your mobile contract to the cheapest available. Cancel subscriptions. You can survive without all these things. Just take a look at those in third world countries. Life doesn’t end when you don’t have 100 tv channels to choose from. And you may just find your life feels freer without them.
Can you take a part time job. Sod losing face. This is about survival! What can you sell? All those clothes you have sat at the back of the wardrobe .. sell them on eBay. Do you have a spare room? List it on Air B&B.
Talk to someone.
One of the worst things is trying to remain looking super successful to the outside world and bottling everything up inside. This is like a pressure cooker. You will explode. Find someone to confide in. Someone you can be honest with and have a breakdown in front of. Sometimes jut having a bloody good cry and letting it all out can work wonders. It lets off all that steam and allows you to see clearly again
Whatever you do, don’t just bury your head in the sand. Take control and get the help you need.
How often do you hear ‘let’s meet for a coffee and a chat’?
Now then, I am more than happy to give an initial free consultation to anyone who needs help. We all need a helping hand at times. But what rankles me are those that you have this chat with who then want to follow it up in more detail over a coffee. They know you can help them but they don’t want to pay.
These people are those that I know personally and because of this connection, they seem to think they can use my services and not have to pay. (The strange thing is that they never offer me free products or services that they sell).
I wrote an article ‘Can I Pick Your Brain’ a while ago now but thought it would be useful to come up with a few more answers to those who don’t value your time or expertise.
For those who think you are dumb and will fall for the coffee invite just for them to bombard you with questions.
“I would love to meet for coffee. It would great to get away from the office and have a break from the business talk for an hour.”
People who are in the frame of mind that they want everything for free, usually don’t want to meet in their social time.
Say ‘how about we meet for a drink. You could pop over to (somewhere close to you as they usually also want you to go where it’s convenient for them) when I finish work on (insert day). It would a lovely way to wind down after a busy day.”
Both these responses make it clear that you are NOT going to be talking business. It’s quite satisfying when you hear the person on the other end stumbling for a response.
For those that have made it clear they want to pick your brains for nothing
Don’t be afraid of offending these people. They aren’t worried about offending you.
“I’d love to take you up coffee but unfortunately coffee doesn’t pay my bills”
“I’ve never found that discussing business over coffee is the most effective way of giving advice. I’d be more than happy to book you in for an appointment. I’ll email you the details to get you booked in.” Then send them your paid booking link. I promise you won’t hear from them again.
These two responses are more direct but very effective.
Alternatively, “I don’t have time for coffee but more than happy to book you an appointment in my office”. This is slightly softer and keeps the channels of communication open.
An even more softly, softly catch-all answer would be “I’d love to but I’m currently snowed under”.
Ultimately, just be straight with them.
Tell them “If it’s a coffee and a chat I would love to meet up but being open and honest here, if you are just trying to use it as an excuse for free advice, I’ll be a tad offended”. Now let them squirm with embarrassment.
And don’t feel guilty. Remember, if you did all of these free coffee requests, your business would rapidly go downhill and your paying clients would get to hear and get pretty pissed off.
Your business. Your rules.
And just for fun. After initially writing this post, I was sent this which I think is just brilliant!
Do you have any responses you would like to share? Leave them in the comments box below.
Sometimes, when you realise your industry is becoming saturated with competitors, stop trying to fight against them and think how you can turn this into an opportunity.
I always remember meeting the founders of The Soap Kitchen many years ago when the husband and wife team were starting up from their dining table. Over the years, their business grew as did their competitors.
Instead of fighting against them and getting consumed with worry, they looked at the opportunity this presented. They decided to adapt their business model. Rather than continuing to just making soap, they started running workshops teaching their competitors how to make soap. But taking it further, they also started supplying them with the raw materials.
The business exploded and four years ago they moved from their beautiful, but humble dining table to a shop and separate large warehouse with more than 20 staff. It is now the leading DIY soap making supplier in the UK and Europe.
Today I met a lady who offers a service and has been met with a similar problem. She is in the holistic health and wellness industry and it seems like every other person and their dog is now entering this. Her competitors are growing daily.
She recognised she was having to work harder but not seeing any increase in profits so came to see me. Rather than getting in a fluster, she went through everything with me and we soon realised a golden opportunity right under her nose where she could help others entering her profession. She could teach courses on how to get the level that she had reached.
Create opportunities out of problems
Rather than looking at helping her competition adversely affecting her, she saw the opportunity to create more income. This would also raise her profile in the industry giving her business visibility. She would now be integrating with competitors rather than trying to avoid them.
If you’re struggling with competitors, consider what hidden opportunities are out there for you. Don’t let your initial panic make your blind to these. If you’ve been in business for a while, and other new faces are appearing, take advantage of this . See how you can help them whilst creating a new income stream for yourself.
You might surprise yourself and find you enjoy it whilst significantly increasing your profits.
Outsourcing business tasks can really take the pressure off you when building a business and can help you save time and grow your business to the next level.
However, it really saddens me the number of times I see women trying to build their own successful home business and taking the step to outsource some work, only to be ripped off.
I constantly hear stories, where an agreement has been made only to find that very little of the work needed, is completed. The person hired, basically tries to do a runner with the money. So many times, freelances who promise the earth quickly lose interest or are unable to do the work to the standard required. Rather than admitting their inadequacies and refunding monies already paid, they start to ignore emails, phone calls and Facebook messages.
The person hiring is left with a looming deadline, out of pocket so financially unable to hire someone else and in a sense of abandonment and despair.
Please, if you are going to hire a freelancer, do a few things to protect yourself from the same happening to you.
Agree to Terms and Conditions
Whenever outsourcing any work, before you do anything else agree clear, WRITTEN AND SIGNED, terms and conditions. This needs to include:
the scope of the work with exactly what is going to be done by whom and when (including any information you need to supply to the freelancer),
a deadline for the work to be completed,
how much it is going to cost and
what happens if either party is unhappy and wishes to cancel.
Do not rely on word of mouth and trust. So many times, agreements have been verbal as a person has seemed so wonderful and the relationship has been on trust, only for it to go horribly wrong. I have known ladies feel embarrassed about asking for T’s & C’s. Really? You are running a business and you need to protect it. If anyone tries to fob you off saying you don’t this, run for the hills.
Read reviews and testimonials
Read their testimonials and contact some of the people who have written them to make sure the reviews are genuine. Yes, it’s a sad world we live in that some people make them up.
Interview them. Yep! You are hiring someone so it’s perfectly ok to speak to them and conduct an interview. Ask them what they would do if they had an emergency and couldn’t complete the work on time. Ask them how many times they have had cancellations or had to refund a client. You can tell a lot from whether they answer quickly and confidently or start to pause and stumble over their words. Listen to your gut feeling when speaking with them.
Start with a sample piece of work
Consider asking anyone you are outsourcing work to, to do a small sample piece of work so you can test out their standards and service. Don’t expect them to do this for free but pay them for a small section of the project that you need help with.
Pay in instalments
Pay in instalments. Don’t ever pay in full upfront. Agree on stage payments. That way, if something starts to go wrong, you can stop your payments until the situation is fixed. Alternatively, you can cancel the agreement altogether (again, make sure this is covered in your written contract.)
Look at payment options
Think about how you pay. If you use PayPal if there is a dispute, and you can prove your case, you should be able to get your money back within a reasonable timescale.
In essence, take time to do your research before hiring anyone and use the checks above before signing on the dotted line and handing over your hard-earned money. I’ve been bitten myself in the past, so I am speaking from experience. It’s horrible when it happens but it makes you much savvier when hiring in the future.
Do you have a story to share on your own experience? Leave a comment below. I would love to hear about it whether good or bad.