Solving some customer complaints may enact a change in the way that you do business, according to an article in Forbes.com. According to a report by Training Magazine, handling a customer complaint positively takes listening and understanding of the facts. Fast resolutions are expected, and a follow-up to ensure the customer is properly satisfied can turn a bad situation into one that was handled with great care and attention.
Eight members of the Young Entrepreneur Council shared their advice on how to best handle customer complaints and how that changed their business. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Swallow your pride and apologize.
Some of the toughest customer situations involve a large mistake for which you aren't sure exactly where the responsibility lies. I had a team member show up for a workshop in the wrong city, which naturally resulted in her missing the client's session. The team member said the client did not clarify that the location was different from the last time she visited, but the client did not admit to this and was very upset. My immediate instinct was to be defensive, for how could my team possibly make such an error? I realized, though, that the client wanted me to take ownership of the situation, so I swallowed my pride, apologized, and asked what we could do to make it up to them. We now have a policy in place for confirming event logistics, which every client must sign before an engagement. Alexandra Levit, PeopleResults
2. Research the situation before taking action.
During a series of customer phone interviews, we had a customer make advances at someone on the team. They did this a couple of times in the interview and followed up through email. So the employee asked them to keep things professional. This made the customer upset and they took it upon themselves to complain about her to me, saying that she didn't know how to do her job. After looking into it and figuring out what was happening, I asked the customer for specific details on his issue. He replied back with vague references. Knowing they didn't have any details, I insisted on getting the details to ensure we fixed any problems. We never heard back from the customer and they eventually canceled. This reinforced the need to thoroughly research situations before taking action. Ruben Gamez, Docsketch
3. Implement a code of conduct.
Codes of conduct are a relatively recent addition to any event organizer's toolbox. But at a recent event I worked on, I had a chance to see how useful a tool a code of conduct would be. Multiple attendees complained about the behavior of another person attending the event. In years past, before we implemented codes of conduct at all events, I wouldn't have had a clear process for addressing this problem. Since we'd sat down with a consultant and put together a specific incident response plan in advance, though, I was able to resolve the situation in less than 30 minutes. I've started bringing the concept of codes of conducts to other spaces. Slack and other chat channels, in particular, are much easier to manage with an explicit set of expectations available to all participants. Thursday Bram, The Responsible Communication Style Guide
4. Always give the benefit of the doubt.
In many businesses, and in mobile games especially, customers ask for freebies. Knowing where to draw the line of keeping customers happy versus being too generous and hurting sales is tricky. In one case, after a long day of complaints, a user who had never purchased demanded “Free Coins.” It was their first message. We were tired of these kinds of messages so we sent off a cheeky response of “Free coins? Yes, free coins! And here are some free coins to go with your free coins!” along with a small windfall. This user hasn't written back again but is currently one of our most valuable customers, faithfully purchasing every day. A complainer can become one of your most loyal customers. Now we have a policy: We always give the benefit of the doubt and free coins, no questions asked, on the first contact. Pokin Yeung, Absolute Games
5. Truly listen.
We recently had a client who was unhappy with her massage session at our studio. When I spoke with her about her experience, I realized she wasn't the right fit for that particular therapist -- she wanted a more nurturing session, and his work was more sports-oriented. I used the Imago technique to listen reflectively, show validation for her concerns, and empathy for her situation. After speaking with her, I was able to schedule her for another session with a different massage therapist. It's not always about spending money or offering discounts or refunds to appease a customer, sometimes they just want to feel truly heard and actively listened to. Rachel Beider, Massage Greenpoint, Massage Williamsburg
6. Let the customers feel they are right.
A while back, we sent out a promotional mailing to one of our lists and it was in reference to a contest we were holding. For whatever reason, one of the subscribers on the list assumed they had won something when they actually hadn't. In fact, they had never even entered a contest or anything associated with our site, so there was no way for them to win anything. The customer was extremely displeased when they found out they didn't win something. They even went on to say they told all of their family and friends about this big mystery prize they won and how they were now looking for damages due to embarrassment! Long story short, we got in contact with them and resolved everything. Moral of the story: Even when your customer is wrong, let them feel they are "kind of" still right. Zac Johnson, Blogger
7. Enable crystal-clear communication.
We recently ran into a situation where a customer was unaware that she had signed up for auto payments to her account to pay for a summer camp that her daughter was attending. When she received a reminder that the payment was coming, she went irate via email, phone calls, and in-person. Auto payments, in our mind, were a convenience, something that saves the customer some time. But from the client's perspective, it was invasive and she claimed she was unaware. The situation reminded me that technology and automation don't always make all customers happy! And that whenever payments and money are involved, there should be crystal-clear communication. Matt Murphy, Kids in the Game
8. Keep a level head.
We were recently put in a tough situation as a result of a customer passing blame to us from an error that was clearly their fault. As a business that takes customer service very seriously, it was a challenge to handle a situation where the customer was not able to understand that they had simply ordered the wrong part, and not that we had shipped the wrong item. The customer placed an order on our website and later called us, furious, blaming us for shipping the incorrect item and threatening to post a negative review. We immediately involved top management to let him know that we were taking his complaint seriously and apologized profusely. We took blame immediately and we offered him an exchange. As a result of us staying level-headed, he later realized the misunderstanding and apologized. Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors