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.
Do you ever have clients placing an order for your products or services only to cancel a while later? There may be a very good reason why.
Yes, that simple act of keeping in touch and letting them know what is happening behind the scenes can make the difference between a happy customer and one who gets fed up thinking they have been forgotten and decides to take their business elsewhere.
There is no better example of this than when I ran my estate agents. Other agents were getting complaints and clients cancelling all the time to switch and coming to me. My clients stayed with me and the business was built on word of mouth recommendations.
Because I kept in touch. I put myself in their shoes and kept in mind how they might be feeling. Whilst my team were busy behind the scenes calling people about their property to book viewings and chasing surveyors and solicitors when a sale was agreed, the homeowner had no idea this was going on. All they had from other agents was silence. I made sure that every one of my clients had a call to update them every single week, even if there was nothing new to say. It made them feel important. They knew exactly what was going on and appreciated the call.
Yes, it took time and effort but the fact that my estate agency soared whilst others were struggling spoke volumes.
The key to stop clients cancelling
Take a moment to think how often you keep in contact with your clients. Are you busy working behind the scenes on the behalf putting together their order or working on a project for them? Do they know this? Are you updating them? If not, then perhaps it’s time to think again about your communication policy. Set up a simple database such as CapsuleCRM to keep in contact with everyone and see how much they appreciate it. This simple step really could be the key to stopping your clients cancelling and going elsewhere.
Just to finish, here are two current examples. Just this morning I have cancelled an order with a local company for having a sign made as they simply have not kept in contact with me and not sent information to me as promised. I have chased them no less than three times and yet they have still failed to keep in contact, and I am now fed up. I have now contacted another company and transferred my order to them.
The other example is with my husband’s laptop which stopped working whilst under guarantee. We took it back to the shop where it was purchased and they promised to fix it asap. That was six weeks ago!!! My husband has called on a number of occasions to get updates and then called again this morning. They said it was fixed and had been posted back. If this company had kept us updated and even let us know it was fixed and on the way back, we may have bought from them again. As they couldn’t be bothered to keep in touch, we have both said we will never buy from them again (and will tell others not to!)
Communication is key
Remember, whatever you do, don’t forget communication is key. If you don’t keep in contact with your prospects and clients, don’t be surprised when they go and buy elsewhere.
Do you know that one of the best ways to delight and surprise your clients and build raving fans for your business is to do something unexpected to thank them for their business and make them feel appreciated?
However, very few businesses think about thanking their customers for their business. Even fewer actually find original ways to do so.
One of the simplest and best ways to do this is to send them a surprise in the post. In this world of online technology, receiving something as simple as a handwritten note will make you stand out from the crowd and get you noticed.
Your clients will appreciate that you have taken a few minutes out of your busy day to think just about them.
And you don’t just have to restrict this sentiment to clients. Why not send something to a prospect that you would like to work with.
How to delight and surprise your clients
It doesn’t have to be expensive to send something personal in the post. After all, remember the adage that ‘it’s the thought that counts’.
Take a look through the following list to get some ideas flowing:
You could simply buy a pack of plain note cards and write a personal message to them.
Or buy packs of postcards with motivational quotes on the front and pop a handwritten note on the back.
If you see an article in a magazine that is relevant, how about cutting it out and sending to them – so much more effective than sending a link to an online article via email.
Consider getting some personalised bookmarks printed up with your branding and sending those out as gifts.
Think about sending a voucher to spend with your business. If you are a masseur, hairdresser or provide products, a voucher is easy. If you are a coach or consultant, create a voucher to redeem for a free 30-minute session with you.
Do you have a client that you suspect is feeling tired or overwhelmed? Why not pin a tea bag to a short note telling them to take 5 mins out on you and sit down with a cuppa? Guaranteed to make them laugh, feel loved and remember you!
Or how about sending a small (or large) chocolate bar to give them a treat?
For long-standing and valued clients, send a beautiful notebook
Or an inspirational book of your choosing
Or a gift card ……
These things are inexpensive yet will help build relationships that will generate you much more money in the future through clients who feel nurtured and valued and who will stay loyal to you. Your gift doesn’t have to be expensive to be memorable. It has to be special and feel personal.
What ideas do you have to delight and surprise your clients in unexpected ways? Let me know in the comments below.
Today, more and more people take to social media to make a complaint. But there is such a huge difference in how businesses deal with these complaints.
If you get a complaint on social media, do you want to keep that client who complains (and create a raving superfan for your business) or just get rid of them (and take others with them)?
Things go wrong. If they don’t, you probably aren’t that busy or aren’t trying hard enough.
[Tweet “Things go wrong. If they don’t, you probably aren’t that busy or aren’t trying hard enough.”]
And this past week two retail giants had major problems. Their websites broke! Sainsbury’s was online but whatever search went in ended in ‘no results’ available. Boots UK site was completely down and simply couldn’t be accessed.
Sod’s law dictated these problems happened on the very day that I was trying to do some online ordering. After numerous frustrated attempts to order what I wanted, I gave up and took to Twitter to ask when they would have their problems rectified.
Within minutes of my tweet to Sainsbury’s, they responded to say they had checked and yes, there was a problem and would report back to me. In a short while, they tweeted me again to say they were doing their best to rectify the problem and would I bear with them and try to order in a few hours time.
Boots? The silence was deafening! No response at all.
Later that evening Sainsbury’s asked if I would send them a contact number so they could speak to me direct. I duly sent this and they called me to say the site was back up and had I managed to place my order. I told them that I hadn’t placed my order as time had run out and I had gone elsewhere. They apologised profusely for the inconvenience caused, told me how much they valued my custom and immediately sent me an e-voucher.
I was impressed.
Boots? After sending a second tweet they responded 48 hours later to say their site had only been down for one hour. Utter rubbish, it was down for over 6 hours! And no further correspondence was had from them.
So what can you learn from these two companies and the way they handled a problem? As I am sure you can guess, it’s not rocket science.
What to do when you get a complaint on social media
If you get a complaint or a client/customer flags up a problem try the following:
Immediately acknowledge there is a problem and it will be looked into
Ask for contact details to take the complaint off line
Inform the client of when they can expect a response
Let them know what went wrong and what has been done to rectify the problem
If you and your business were not at fault, there has still been a misunderstanding of some sort so acknowledge this and look into ways of ensuring the misunderstanding or problem does not happen again
Let them know how much you value their custom and apologise for inconvenience caused
Go over and above to make them feel special and offer them a freebie/voucher or similar to show you genuinely care
This is an effective way of regaining trust and credibility with the client and retaining their custom.
It is also possible they will be so impressed that they will turn back to social media to say how impressed they were with how your problem was handled, raising awareness of your business to others.
What not to do when you get a complaint on social media:
Deny there was a problem – this is basically calling them a liar – not recommended as insult will be taken
Get into a public argument
Do absolutely nothing to let them know you value their custom
If you do the above, you are most likely to lose their custom forever (there are plenty of other places to buy the same products and services from).
It is also quite probable that the client will take to social media to highlight your poor attitude giving a bad impression of your business to others who may have been thinking of buying from you and will now go look elsewhere.
Create a customer care policy
If you don’t have a customer care policy in place, go create one now. It doesn’t matter if you are a one woman band or a multi-million corporation. The principle is exactly the same.
Hopefully, you will never have to use it but as the boy scouts famously state, it is always good to be prepared.
How do you respond when someone makes a request that is not normally something that you do? Do you instantly say no, not possible? Or do you take a moment to consider whether it is something that you would consider helping them with?
Rather than just saying no, consider saying that you will look into it for them and get back with a response at a later time. This has two benefits.
The first is that you show them respect for their request by not dismissing them instantly. This can have a far better lasting impression than a straight out no that leaves them unsure of where to go or what to do next.
Too many businesses refuse to stray from the straight and narrow and therefore miss opportunities that are lying right under their noses. They are too quick to say no, we don’t do that and leave the enquirer feeling dismissed with care and consideration.
[Tweet “Too many businesses refuse to stray from the straight & narrow & therefore miss opportunities that are lying right under their noses”]
Even if you decide that the request is not something that you can deal with, you can go back and let the person know that you have taken the time to consider it, but it is not something that you can personally help with.
It may, however, be the case that you can refer them on to someone else who can help. This provides value to the person and also to any businesses that receive a referral, all of whom may remember you for your help in the future and feel the need to repay the compliment. There may even be an opportunity for starting up collaborative working with another business that will pay future dividends to you both.
[Tweet “Look for opportunities to work collaboratively with other businesses that will pay dividends for both of you”]
The second benefit is that by considering requests that are outside of your normal remit gives you an opportunity to consider whether it is something that you could actually incorporate as a product or service into your business. This could become another revenue stream that you had not previously thought of.
We get all too caught up with our day to day running of our businesses and can sometimes not see the wood for the trees. By listening to requests, and dealing with them in the appropriate manner, we can find opportunities that may have otherwise passed us by.
Next time you get a request for something that you don’t currently offer, rather than instantly decline a customer, stop and think for a moment as to how you can turn it into a future opportunity for your business whilst providing great customer service at the same time.
I believe I have found a way for you to beat your competitors in a guaranteed way. This is just by delivering what you promise to do. Simples!!
I never cease to be amazed by the appalling service that so many companies still think is acceptable.
Just this past week I have encountered the following:
Laura Ashley promising delivery within 3 working days and yet 10 days later still no order received. Their customer service is non-existent with emails being ignored and a wholly incompetent customer service representative on the other end of the phone when I eventually got through.
I have booked flights with British Airways and encountered numerous problems on their site when trying to enter Advanced Passenger Information and reserve seats. Again, emails ignored until I took to social media. I then get an email telling me to follow the links on the website. But they don’t work! This was followed by no less than 8 failed attempts to speak to them by phone as after following the automated service it either went to a constantly engaged tone or cut off altogether.
I went to enquire about a new car from Nissan only for the salesperson to say he would email what they had and the prices. Why? I was there in the showroom potentially ready to buy. Was it because I was a lone woman and he didn’t believe I was serious without a man by my side? I emailed Nissan to complain about his attitude, got an automated response saying someone would be in touch within 48 hours and never heard from them again. Appalling!
Finally, a dodgy estate agent who is lazy beyond belief waits until the last minute to negotiate with the vendor on items he promised to do on day one. He then uses the cop out line that the vendors have changed their mind. I have reason to believe he lied through his teeth to get the sale and was just too incompetent to do his job properly. Suffice to say, when I come to sell in the future, this agent will be last on my list.
All of these instances I wish I could say were rare but are unfortunately all too common. Tradesmen who don’t return calls, or who come and give an estimate never to be seen again. If they don’t want the work, just say so. Cleaners who come to the office full of promises of how good they are only to leave a half done job that has to be redone. Financial advisors who promise information to be sent only for them to have to be chased continuously.
So if you want to beat your competitors hands down, try focusing on customer service. At the very least do what you say you will. And if you can go the extra mile, I bet those customers will be so impressed they will come back to you time and time again.
I am now going to start noting good and bad customer service and writing about examples of these. If you have any of your own that you would like to share, please pop over and add them on the Facebook page.