Whether your customer is the head of a major business or a person buying your lowest-priced item, if they have a complaint your best strategy is to respond in a way that converts them into enthusiastic advocates for your brand.
Keep in mind, a great number of dissatisfied customers don’t even both to register a complaint. They just stop purchasing your product and go to the competition. Each loss represents a potential lifelong customer subtracted from your bottom line.
Sometimes you may be called upon to handle a key client’s complaints yourself. In many other cases, it’s up to your front-line staff to cope with disgruntled customers. Here are suggestions for how everyone within your company can spin dross into gold:
Listen non-defensively. Hear out the customer’s complaint before responding. People often need to vent their frustration before they’re ready to listen to any possible solutions. Whatever the situation, don’t take their complaints personally. They bought your product or service and for some reason came away dissatisfied. It has nothing to do with you as a person.
Ask open-ended questions. First, repeat back what you heard to make sure everyone’s on the same page. Then ask open-ended questions so you can get more information about what went wrong. (This also makes the other party feel you actually care.)
Apologize without casting blame. You may know where things went wrong or who in the company dropped the ball in a particular case. That’s information best kept to yourself. A generalized (and sincere) apology is all that’s needed.
Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Everyone knows what it’s like to be unhappy with a product at some time or other. Keep this in mind when you’re handling a customer’s complaints. They just want to know you have their best interests at heart.
Be a partner in the solution. Inviting the customer to suggest a solution to his or her problem makes them a partner with you in determining the best outcome.
Resolve the situation. If you say you’re going to fix a complaint, do it. Don’t push it off on others or leave it to the bureaucratic chain-of-command. Too many customers expect that to happen anyway and won’t wait around very long to see if things turn out differently.
The good news is, by pro-actively handling these complaints, you set your business apart from all the others who don’t listen to what their customers have to say. Most of the time that’s all you need to do to convince your customers that the problem was an aberration and won’t likely happen again. This encourages them to continue buying from you—with the knowledge that making them happy is your top priority.
Members of Catapult Groups explore cutting-edge customer service best practices, while also focusing on future growth for their businesses. Find out more about how membership in Catapult Groups can help your business grow and make you a more effective leader.