A powerful business guest post written by Lauryn Winterson.
No one likes to receive complaints from customers, but these unpleasant experiences can be blessings in disguise. Satisfied customers tend to be silent. When things go wrong, though, people are sure to speak up. Wise business owners will welcome the feedback as a chance to improve their operations and strengthen customer relations.
Don’t Point Fingers
- When faced with a complaint, the gut reaction is often to become defensive or find someone to blame. However, the customer doesn’t care who did it – they just want their problem acknowledged and solved. The business doesn’t necessarily have to accept the blame for the customer’s problem, but it should accept the responsibility for finding a solution. If the problem originated outside of the organization, that might be mentioned (tactfully), but inter-departmental feuds should not be aired in front of an already-angry customer (especially not online, in front of the whole world).
- Apologies are effective, but they can also be tricky – depending on the situation, a carelessly-worded apology could open the door to legal liabilities. A business should apologize if they are at fault, but the apology should be worded so as to avoid inviting lawsuits. A good apology is heartfelt, solution-oriented, and leaves no doubt in the customer’s mind that someone is listening and cares about their satisfaction.
Let Me Explain
- Customers may appreciate knowing why the problem occurred. A little information can go a long way toward diffusing a misunderstanding.
Keep in Touch
- It is important to respond to a complaint right away, and businesses should keep the customer informed about the progress as they seek and implement solutions. If the complaint was registered in an online public forum, a representative of the business should respond in that forum as soon as possible. Unlike private letters and emails, complaints on the Internet can quickly escalate to a public argument. Positive, respectful follow-up communication will be welcomed – and remembered.
- Complainers are doing the business a favor. They should be thanked! Responses to complaints should start with a thank-you: “I appreciate your bringing this to my attention.” Likewise, they should close on a positive note: “I hope you will continue to count on XYZ Co for all your widget needs.”
- When something goes wrong, people respect action and results. The most ardent complainer can be turned into a loyal advocate if they feel that their voice has been heard, their needs respected, and their problem addressed.
How have you handled customer complaints for your business? Please share by leaving your comments below.