Treating a complaint as a gift...
'Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning’ is a quote often attributed to Microsoft founder Bill Gates. How do you view and handle your complaints? Are you really using every opportunity to turn those ouch! moments in to wows! Can your complaints be those extra gifts you’ve be waiting for?
Let’s face it handling a customer complaint is not always something we like to do. We’d much rather be delighting our customers rather than unraveling awkward and sometimes embarrassing situations. It’s often worse when we’re picking up a complaint that has developed from outside our control.
However the key thing is to act to resolve the complaint as quickly and as decisively as you can. Remove the pain and replace with some pleasure. Make sure you stick to your professional agenda by avoiding any temptation to let things get personal. Use all your tact and diplomacy to seek the best possible outcome for all concerned.
Handling complaints needs to go beyond using the necessary skills to deal with the issue. Having a positive attitude towards the complaint will also help. For example, look to welcome the complaint. It’s worth remembering that for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent*. It’s essential to remain positive as your attitude will influence how you respond. Behaviour breeds behaviour so using phrases such as these will help:
- ‘Thank you for letting me know’
- ‘I am sure we can help’
- ‘I understand….’
- ‘Let me help you get this resolved…’
It’s important to learn from complaints too. Mistakes do happen but we cannot afford for them to be repeated. Poor customer service will seriously damage your wealth. Therefore take time out to review what’s happened to generate the complaint and look to put processes and/or training in place to improve. Look for root causes rather than symptoms. Involve those people who need to be involved, working as a team to make sure a proper solution is in place.
Finally make sure you and your team are trained to take ownership and deal with complaints in a professional way. On our customer excellence training we use the LEARN acronym to provide a useful checklist to handle complaints effectively:
- Listen carefully to your customer. Don't interrupt or tell the customer to calm down, this will only ignite the anger.
- Empathise to feel the pain of the customer, and tell the customer that you can understand how they feel.
- Apologise to the customer, even if you feel that you have no part in the problem. Do not blame the customer, but there is no need to take the blame yourself
- React by deciding what you will do to resolve the problem, and tell this to the customer.
- Now! - Do not delay. Take immediate action! The longer you wait, the harder it is to produce outstanding customer service.
Paul Beesley, senior consultant, Beyond Theory