Handling Customer Complaints

We often find that training to help employees deal with customer complaints falls short of expectations.  The result is dissatisfied customers, discouraged staff members, loss of brand loyalty … and profitability.

We’ve expanded on these eight steps from Associated Bank as a tool to improve your business, your customer service, and strengthen customer loyalty:

  1. Train for the worst.  When your employees, associates, customer service associates or whatever you call them are prepared for the worst possible scenario, such as the potential for an active shooter, they are ready to handle those situations.  It makes handling the more simple problems much easier.Complainer
  2. Listen.  Customers are emotional when they complain.  They want to be heard and give you information that is, indeed, helpful for operating your business.  Provide your employees with the training they need to be able to listen and, most important, understand what is being said.
  3. Assume the truth.  You may get an occasional customer who tries to milk the system, but most are honest and should be assumed to be telling the truth.  By assuming it’s true, your employees can focus on fixing the problem, which should be the desired outcome.
  4. Apologize.  An apology is more sincere than saying “I’m sorry” for something that may or may not be the employee’s fault.  The apology is for the fact the customer had to experience the problem.  It should be sincere – and count – so it can diffuse a potentially tense situation with an irate customer.  Tread carefully for legalities so the apology doesn’t end up in court as a “Well, he said …”
  5. Act Immediately.  Staff should be trained to take care of the problem right away, and to keep the customer apprised of what’s been done.  We asked someone registering us for an event to correct a misspelled name and it was done immediately.  That instills confidence that the company does care about its customers.
  6. Ask what they want.  Be straight forward and ask what can resolve the problem to their satisfaction.  They may not actually want anything other than to apprise you of a problem or potential issue.  Use this as an opportunity to find a solution – for the client and for the prevention of future problems.
  7. Make it easy to complain.  Provide a phone number on invoices or your website.  Give out an E-mail address for customers to express their concerns.  A word of caution, however:  Avoid letting those concerns reside and linger in a voice mail message system or in box for days on end.  Take care of the complaints promptly.
  8. Follow-up.  If nothing else is accomplished, follow-up.  Make sure your customers are pleased with your service, your products and/or services, and your company/brand.

Brand Irons can provide your company with an in-service workshop on customer service.  You can find out more with a phone call to (920) 366-6334.

In our next blog, we’ll cover whether management may be the problem.

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