I would love to write an entire article about how every customer interaction I have had has been great. In my head I picture every one of my customers throwing their arms around me and thanking me for the work I’ve done, the great staff I’ve hired and the products that have helped them win business. But that’s not reality.
Reality is a two-way street when you have an unhappy customer. You either turn them around or turn them away. I want to discuss some techniques that work (when your customer is willing) and what a discouraged customer is looking for.
Being involved in the process of managing your customer’s complaints can seem like an awful job, but the key is not to get bogged down in how angry they are or how loud they might be screaming. The fact that you have a customer willing to share this experience (no matter how negative) is a positive one. For every customer that rants and raves there are probably three to four others who do not and you can assume they have moved on. I know it sounds better in theory and harder to practice, but you need to see your customer concerns as a door that is open, rather than one that is shut.
You should view every piece of feedback as critical information. How are your parts being used by the customer? What can be done to improve the process? Customer complaints give you the opportunity to see how your company is falling short of customer expectations.
What do your customers want when they call in anger? You can break it down into three areas: I’m listening; I’m sorry; and what can I do to make things better? Customers who complain are indicating where you need improvement; seize the opportunity to improve. Adjust the systems that are deficient. Mistakes happen, learn from them and prevent the same errors or problems from recurring.
The biggest and easiest issue to correct is having open communication. Make sure the customer knows how to reach you in the event of an issue. Although it may feel that way, this is not the time to sit by yourself and figure out a solution. Work with the customer and understand fully what they need.
Once you have established the issues and concerns, work with your customer on a plan to address the problem, and provide a timetable for resolution. It is true that not all problems can be immediately rectified, but providing a timetable will help manage the customer’s expectations. Once the problem is resolved, communicate the resolution, and thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention.
The best-case scenario of resolving customer complaints is that it may even build customer loyalty. Everything was not perfect, and yet you made efforts to correct the issues that the customer brought to your attention. It is possible to turn customer complaints into assets. Customers that feel you responded will often become an advocate for your business.
But resolving complaints is not a “wait and see” process. Review changes in your process right now. Is there an area that results in customer confusion? All of your processes—from part creation to shipping to packaging—should be constantly evolving. Take a close look and consider how you can implement changes to prevent any mishaps or problems from occurring.
Many small businesses that understand the value of customer feedback solicit comments from customers—often offering incentives for polite, honest feedback. If you wish to be proactive, send follow-up e-mails to all customers who have queried your company. This is quality assurance and a great way to solicit customer feedback.
Nobody likes dealing with customer complaints. The hard, but important, part is turning the bad into beautiful.
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