Turn Customer Complaints into Opportunities

Mistakes happen. It’s a fact of life. What’s critical though is how you handle them.

Customer Complaints Explained

When you mention the word “customer complaint” many people cringe because it’s something that they hate dealing with. Instead, by employing the right approach it can be a very exciting and rewarding marketing opportunity for your business.

According to surveys, 26 out of 27 people who experience problems with a company don’t complain. That works out to be only 4% of disgruntled customers that complain. Of those 96% who don’t complain, most of them stop doing business with that organisation.

But – with the people who DO complain, between 56 – 70% will continue to do business with your company if you resolve the complaint. If you resolve the complaint quickly, an even better 96% will stay with you. Studies also show that the most loyal customers are ones who have previously had a problem with a company but that problem was resolved quickly.

How To Handle Complaints

STEP ONE: Thank them for taking the time to complain.

Thank them because it gives you an opportunity to ensure they are delighted but also to ensure that you can keep improving the quality of service so all customers have a great experience.

STEP TWO: Let them vent. Show empathy.

When they have finished, ask them is there anything else they’re not happy with. Listen attentively. Show them you’re on their side.

STEP THREE: Apologize.

Once you understand their concerns (and not before) THEN apologize.

STEP FOUR: Do not give excuses.

It doesn’t matter whether there was a 3 day long power blackout, whether transport workers went on strike, whether your computer blew up or there was a hurricane. People don’t care why a mistake happened. When mistakes happen they want an apology and a solution, not an excuse.

STEP FIVE: Ask what the customer would like you to do to fix the situation.

The reason why you ask this is that it puts the ball back in their court so that it ensures the measures you take are the measures they want. In most situations, what they want is less than you think.

STEP SIX: Take ownership of the problem and personally take action to fix it right away.

Ensure that every team member has the authority to immediately rectify the mistake and compensate the customer or gift them something that makes up for the error.

STEP SEVEN: Rectify first. Figure out the cause later.

Speed is of the essence. Your customer will appreciate the fact that your biggest concern is making them happy.

STEP EIGHT: Follow Up.

The next most important thing you can do AFTER fixing the mistake is to follow-up with the customer a few days later. By following up and making sure that the situation has resolved itself and that the customer is happy, you’re showing that you DO care about their happiness.

5 More Important Points To Consider

Overcompensate For The Error

Don’t just refund the customer’s money. Refund the customer THEN offer a free voucher for another service, THEN bonus in something else. Go WAY beyond the call of duty.

1: Encourage people to complain.

Customers often don’t want to make trouble by complaining so they won’t. If instead you encourage customers to be up-front about what they like and don’t like, you’ll nip any problems in the bud before they turn into big challenges for your business.

2. Regularly find out what they think.

An important way to keep on top of any niggling annoyances is to regularly ask for customer feedback in a pro-active way.

3. Create a “no fault” culture.

Nobody likes to be punished for mistakes they’ve made. Your team members are no different. Instead, have a “no fault” policy at your business. With that, the biggest focus for them is when mistakes happen, do everything they possible can to rectify the problem for the customer. That’s their biggest priority.

4. When you notice the problem first.

If a problem occurs and you detect it before you customers do, make sure you own up and tell them immediately. Tell them what went wrong. Tell them why it went wrong. Tell them the measures you have put in place to fix the problem. Then – tell them that you acknowledge that this has inconvenienced the customers and as a way of apologizing for the mix-up you would like to give them a gift of X.

5. Product returns.

When you receive a product return, refund the customer immediately. Don’t just provide them with a refund though. Also send/gift them something else as a way of making amends. Then once you’ve done that, ask them why they returned the product so you can ensure that doesn’t happen again with future customers.

Summary of Key Points

  • Rectify mistakes instantly
  • Overcompensate for mistakes made
  • Apologize but never blame
  • Give team members the authority to fix mistakes personally themselves
  • Encourage regular feedback to prevent small problems from turning into big ones
  • Always follow-up to ensure the problem has been fixed and that the customer is happy
  • Develop a set procedure for the handling of complaints to ensure there is consistency