If you’re in business, you’ve probably had one or more disgruntled customers complaining about your product or service (unless you’re perfect, in which case we applaud you!).
You’ve no doubt heard the saying that an unhappy customer tells 20 people about their experience. And in this age of social media, an online complaint can reach hundreds, if not thousands of people instantly!
Receiving a complaint can feel like a kick in the teeth, especially when you’ve done your best to serve your customers. But understanding why customers complain, and having a plan to deal with it, will help you see it as a positive.
Why do people stop doing business with you?
Research has shown that 86% of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience (Source: Harris Interactive, Customer Experience Impact Report).
This shows that the reasons we commonly think we lose customers (such as them finding a cheaper price) are perhaps not as important as our personal interaction with them and their overall customer experience.
Many human behaviours are driven by our need to feel important, worthy, or significant. Maya Angelou said it well: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
If a customer expresses that you haven’t made them feel important when doing business with them, please don’t add insult to injury by defending yourself and making them feel wrong, or not responding and making them feel insignificant!
Always respect the customer’s opinion, and validate them and their experience.
So … how specifically do you deal with a customer complaint made directly to you?
1. Thank them for their feedback.
For example, “Thanks for taking the time to give us feedback on your experience to help us improve our customer service.”
If they have come to you with their concerns rather than criticising you publicly, you should be genuinely grateful for their comments and express this to them. By taking the time to contact you, they show they care enough about you and your business to help.
2. Apologise without attributing blame.
For instance, “We apologise that in this instance your experience did not meet your expectations.”
Note that their expectations may have been unrealistic, but right now this is not important! Is it possible that your marketing mislead them to expect something that you don’t deliver? In life, frustrations occur when expectations aren’t met. There is a difference between being right and being effective, and we want to alleviate their frustration rather than adding to it by arguing a point.
3. Offer to compensate.
Example: “We are happy to compensate you by refunding your investment in full.” or…
Offer an alternative, such as: “To make up for the inconvenience, we invite you to attend our next program at no charge / stay 2 nights at another hotel in our chain / enjoy these alternative products which may better suit your needs.”
4. Provide contact details for further discussion.
“Your feedback is valuable to us. We invite you to provide further comment to help us improve. Please contact our General Manager (name) on (number) at any time.”
Remember that a customer who complains directly to you is doing you a favour, so express gratitude. Make them feel important, treat their opinion and comments with respect, and find a solution. And if their comments reveal a genuine fault or gap in your offering, make the necessary improvements. Your business will be all the better for it.