Complaints happen every day. When a customer complains, it is usually for a good reason or genuine concern. They usually have made a purchase that did not meet their expectation—a product, service, or maybe a combination of the two. In the customer service industry, we cannot avoid complaints. We must take care of the customer by listening to the complaint, and resolving it, to ensure a happy customer.
Fewer than half of unhappy customers will bring a complaint to your attention. Those who never say anything will tell an average of 11 other people about their bad experience, it is important that we recognize complaints as opportunities. “Go above and beyond your job description when handling customer complaints”.
Do whatever it takes to ensure the customer is happy with the solution you offer. These sticky situations where a customer has a complaint are the perfect opportunity to display an amazing customer experience. You should aim to deliver an experience that gets told from one person to the next and an experience that will keep the customer coming back for more.
Customers want to know someone is listening and they are understood, and they are hoping you are willing to take care of the problem to their satisfaction. No matter what the situation is, when a customer brings a complaint to your attention—even if they do it in a less-than-desirable way—be thankful. As the old saying goes, “We can’t fix it, if we don’t know it’s broken.” Moreover, we must realize that improper handling of a customer complaint can be costly to the business. Reverting to these two common customer service sayings; ‘treat the customer the way you want to be treated’ and ‘the customer is always right’. I think they do a good job at setting the right mind set to deliver a WOW service.
A WOW service is an experience that leaves a lasting impression on your customers. In some cases, a WOW moment will involve a well thought out marketing campaign designed to increase loyalty and boost repeat business. But many of these moments will also happen during the smaller interactions you have with customers — whether through a positive interaction with your staff, or a helpful tip they receive in your latest email newsletter.
All of these WOW moments — no matter how big or how small — will play a critical role in building customer relationships, which can lead to repeat business and valuable word-of-mouth referrals for your business.
When a customer experiences WOW, you are giving them a pleasant surprise. You are exceeding their expectations. You are addressing their needs thoughtfully and in unexpected ways. It is an expression of your authentic interest in the person who seeks your services, not just in the transaction.
Humans tend to remember experiencing strong emotions pretty well. If you make them say “WOW”, they are going to remember this for a long time and you will get a very loyal customer. WOW moments create a long lasting loyalty. That’s what you’re going for.
However, “WOWing” someone is a tough challenge. Wowing is all about greatly exceeding expectations. And here are a couple of ways you can do that when handling a customer’s complaint.
Complaint Handling is An Opportunity to WOW
All companies receive complaints from time to time. If you are adept at customer complaint handling then you really can make the difference between whether you lose the customer for good or increase their loyalty to you. YES. You did read that correctly. A complaint correctly handled can enhance your reputation in the eyes of your customer. The first thing to do on receipt of a complaint is to welcome it. By taking the time and trouble to complain, the customer is giving you the opportunity to put things right. This is a strong indication that they really would like to continue to do business with you.
The other option open to them is to not tell you they are unhappy with you and then to go elsewhere in future.
Have you been to a mart, experienced poor service or a sub-standard reception but decided to say nothing and then never went back to that mart again. However, we are likely to tell friends and acquaintances and so the word gets spread. In fact, it is well known that we are more likely to relay a bad experience that we have had than a good one.
Complaint Handling is An Opportunity to WOW – Listen Actively
Starting the conversation with a debate, evidently, would only infuriate the customer more. Let the customer rant, preferably out of earshot of others. Don’t argue. Don’t make excuses or blame others.
The biggest mistake is “second guessing” a customer service gripe and trying to cut them off before they have finished their story. Let your customers vent their concerns with minimal interruption. Respond with phrases such as, “Hmm,” “I see,” and “Tell me more.” Do not interrupt. Bear in mind that what they need mostly is just for you to lend an ear, not to argue with them. As the customer vents and sees you are not reacting, he or she will begin to calm down. The customer needs to get into a calm frame of mind before he or she can hear your solution or anything you say, for that matter. Listen to everything the customer has to say. Don’t get defensive, give them your undivided attention.
It may be that the complaint is unjustified. The customer is not always right but remembers ‘The customer always has rights’. The future of your company is dependent on the relationships you have with your customers.
The customer is not attacking you personally; he or she has a problem and is upset. Use this time as your chance to identify what it is they are REALLY upset about. Sometimes the issues can be caused by something out of your control. For example you may have dispatched goods on time but the courier company has failed to deliver when expected. However, the customer has a contract with you and not the parcel delivery company so do not pass the buck and make excuses or refuse to help because you believe it was not your fault. Remember, don’t take it personally. It’s probably not about you.
Acknowledge the problem with empathy
Acknowledging the complaint is the first step to handling it effectively. Once the customer finished venting, proceed by calmly summarizing their problems to establish an initial common ground, ensuring that they have been understood. You won’t lose dignity or concede to being wrong by making the customer feel that you understand their frustration.
Remember, you are saying you understand. You are not saying you agree or will give them the earth. They’ll also be more receptive to your solution. If you or your company made a mistake, admit it. If you did not make a mistake and it is a misunderstanding, simply explain it to the customer: “I can see how that would be incredibly frustrating for you.” You are not necessarily agreeing with what the customer is saying, but respecting how he or she perceives and feels about the situation. An excellent phrase for opening up this particular conversation would be, “So, if I understand you correctly…” Then be quiet. Usually, the customer will respond with “That’s right” or “Exactly.” By repeating to the customer what you think you heard, you lower his or her defences, and win the right to be heard.
Showing that you genuinely care and being empathetic will help calm the customer down and help you remain in control of the situation. Do not be passive-aggressive, be rude or use any sarcasm. These environments are very delicate and any small error in your response can trigger an irate customer that will be a BIG mess to clean up. Additionally, showing some empathy through expressions such as “We’re also unhappy that this happened to you” is also a great idea, since it allows you to share their feelings without necessarily submitting to their views. This would help you not only gain control of the situation, but also further defuse the tension that might have well developed from the start.
Apologize without blaming
The key point here is to be sincere. When a customer senses that you are sincerely sorry, it usually diffuses the situation. No matter what form of communication you’re using, customers would be quick to notice if you feign one. Many customers are simply looking for an apology and acknowledgement of their complaint, yet so many businesses are hesitant to admit when they have made a mistake. Don’t blame another person or department.
This is also no time for justifications or excuses, sometimes all the customer wants to hear is for you to say ‘sorry’ for your disappointing them. Just say, “I’m sorry about that.” Don’t be afraid to apologize for the mistake. Say I’m sorry. It can be hard but say it like you mean it.
Be sincere in expressing regrets that the customer has been inconvenienced or disappointed. State the company position. Ask questions to find out if the customer understands company policy. If adjustments are in order, make them quickly, and cheerfully. If no adjustment is due, explain the company policy to the customer. If it is the company fault, admit it quickly and show your willingness to correct the error. If the error is the customer’s, allow him to save face. Remember the purpose is to Wow them.
Ask questions to get facts
After listening, take the initiative in the conversation. Now that the customer has calmed down and feels you have heard his or her side, begin asking questions. Be careful not to speak scripted replies, but use this as an opportunity to start a genuine conversation, building a trusting relationship with your customer.
As you regain control of the conversation, begin asking for the details you need to help clarify the problem at hand. For instance, when did the problem start happening? Or have they taken any preventative measure? Try to not jump into conclusion too early or you might end up providing the wrong solution.
Ask questions in a caring and concerned manner. Ask, “What would be an acceptable solution to you?” Whether or not the customer knows what a good solution would be, I’ve found it’s best to propose one or more solutions to alleviate his or her pain. Become a partner with the customer in solving the problem.
The more information you can get from the customer, the better you will understand his or her perspective. I’ve learned it’s easier to ask questions than to jump to conclusions.
Agree on a solution
This happens only after you have sufficient details. After you’ve listened to the customer’s complaint and apologized, you can offer your side of the story not an excuse, but an explanation. A customer’s misunderstanding or lack of information could have contributed to his complaint, and learning more about your company’s intentions might help settle his emotions.
But keep it short. The more you say, the more you might create opportunities to start another argument. Instead, shift the conversation away from the problem and toward the solution.
Offer them what you can do to best rectify the problem, and see if it matches their expectations.
Sometimes it doesn’t and you have to adjust, but remember to stay within the limitations of your company’s policy. Don’t promise them more than what you can give, else it might actually come back to bite you and the company later.
Don’t make promises you don’t intend to keep: You’re not going to drastically change your company’s offerings or operations based on the opinion of one person. Know what you can and cannot do within your company’s guidelines. Making a promise you cannot commit to will only set you back. Remember, when offering a solution, be courteous and respectful. Let the customer know you are willing to take ownership of the issue, even if it was out of your control. Take charge of the situation and let the customer know what you are going to do to solve the problem.
If you can afford it, give the customer a financial incentive for a future purchase. If a laundry shop settles a complaint by reducing the bill, the customer still might leave with a negative impression of the service. Offering a free wash or a gift card compels the customer to come back for an additional and hopefully, more positive experience with your company.
Customers want solutions not more problems. Since you’ve listened well and acknowledged the problem, you’re in a really good position now to offer a solution that can help resolve the customer complaint. In this regard, always focus on what you can do as opposed to what you cannot. There is always a solution. It may not be exactly what they are asking for, but if you focus on what you can do versus denying them their requested remedy you have still offered a solution and often merely having another option is sufficient to remedy the situation.
The best people at handling customer complaints are really good at offering up a solution that solves the problem. Best practice shows that you should offer the solution and confirm that it will resolve the pain for the customer. Ask them; ‘If I do XYZ, will that make you happy and resolve the problem for you?’
Always have some wriggle room and let it go ‘above and beyond’ when handling customer scenarios. Having a mindset that, “whatever it takes” I will make the customer happy. It’s the little things that really make the experience Wow.
Execute the Solution
Solve their problem be it with their originally requested resolution or an alternative you have proposed, telling them what you CAN do for them. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do. You might begin by asking what they would like you to do. They may actually require very little. Sometimes we hear “I want my money back” instead of “I want to exchange this.” Resolve the complaint on the spot whenever possible. If you plan to deal with it later, tell the customer exactly what you plan to do and when.
Be careful how you tell a customer a solution. For example, if you say, “Mary’s the only one who can give you a refund” – you have as much said, “Mary will give you a refund.” This may or not be what Mary wants to do. Don’t pass a complaint off for someone else to fix.
There is no getting around customer complaints, regardless of your industry. Research indicates that customers prefer the person they are speaking with to instantly solve their problem. Solve the problem, or find someone who can solve it quickly!
Act faster than they expect
The number one thing, that we have found to WOW someone getting in touch for support is speed. If I can reply to someone within a few minutes of reaching out to us, I found that a large percentage of these people Tweet about us and tell their friends about us. Speed, is absolutely key, and it is not always easy to track it. We are using an awesome tool called help scout that helps us track our response times. Focusing on response time is one of the most rewarding things to do, that truly WOWs any new user. Who does not want to get a reply in minutes?
Many customer complaints cannot be resolved in 60 minutes or less, but they can at least be addressed. If you need a few days to investigate the customer’s complaint, tell her so, not after those few days. Your failure to respond might lead the customer to believe you are not on top of customer service or worse, that you do not care, which only worsens the situation.
It is not just about the response times. Here’s an example of acting fast, if a customer wants something that takes less than 20 minutes to fix, just go ahead and fix it right away. That never fails to Wow a customer.
Thank the customer
Close the conversation by genuinely thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention. Not only this would help make them ‘feel good’ about themselves, but it would also help show that you’re taking well their criticisms, which allow yourself to do better and improve your product or service in the future.
Remember, if they are satisfied, they’ll tell everyone on Facebook, Twitter and Yelp just as they will if they don’t get satisfaction.
After a couple of days or so, make a follow-up phone call or email to the customer to see that the problem was adequately resolved to the customer’s complete satisfaction.
It costs very little, but it shows that you care for the customer. This increases the chance that they will continue to use your services, which will in turn help promote your relationship with them. 68% of customers leave a company because they believe they don’t care about them.
You need feedback from customers about your product, service and customer experience. Some of the greatest, most valuable data comes directly from customers who want to make you a better business by offering their unveiled opinions and criticisms. By learning from your business’ shortcomings, you can vastly improve how you deliver and execute on a Wow experience.
Referrals are one of the best, most effective leads for all small businesses, regardless of industry or business model. The customer referral is so powerful because of the credibility the referrer has with the prospect, can transfer to your business causing them to buy from you. Always thank customers for their feedback, even negative: Without it, you wouldn’t truly know how to provide the good service that keeps them coming back.
Customers are the asset for the business hence they have all the rights to receive proper care and attention. Customers should be given utmost importance and treated nicely because the business can’t flourish without customers. So companies should make all the desired efforts to impress the customers and create the lasting impression that will Wow them.
Be sincere and SMILE!