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Tips for responding to customer complaints

Customer complaints, come in the form of angry emails, scathing online reviews, awkward in-person encounters, negative tweets, or unexpected phone calls. It’s tough to hear, but customer complaints result from you, your product, your staff, or your service falling short of expectations. As difficult and uncomfortable as they are, handling customer complaints is an important part of doing business, and they must be dealt with properly.

Customer complaints can come through different mediums like Google Reviews, phone calls, or even handwritten letters. They will each communicate different levels of frustration and require unique solutions to resolve the issue. That said, building out and relying on a roadmap for responding to these complaints is a necessary starting point. 

Here are some tips for responding to customer complaints

  1. Stay calm, even when it’s not your fault

It would be naive to pretend every customer complaint is a valid one. Sometimes customers get things wrong, mix up companies, and make mistakes. It can be frustrating to proceed calmly without letting the customer know where they went wrong immediately upon leaving a negative review but don’t give in to the temptation.

You will still want to follow the steps above to diffuse the situation and be empathetic. Once the customer is calm, you can kindly explain to them where the mix up happened and offer a genuine explanation. Once the customer understands the issue, you can politely ask that they remove the negative review that’s if they don’t offer to do it first. Remember to assume positive intent during encounters like these, a bit of calmness and understanding can go a long way when resolving customer complaints.

  1. Avoid deflecting blame

As a business owner and responsible for customer service, the buck stops with you. If your sales team makes a huge blunder, don’t let the customer know that. After all, they don’t care who did it, they just want a solution. Plus, it doesn’t build trust with the customer or your sales team to throw them under the bus.

Get comfortable accepting criticism that has been misplaced. Instead, you can relay the feedback behind the scenes in a respectful manner a training refresher can be the perfect forum to address the root cause of a complaint without playing the blame game.

  1. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes

A bit of empathy makes all the difference when resolving customer complaints. After all, you are a customer more often than you are a customer service representative, so put yourself in their shoes when handling complaints. How would you want the issue resolved? What would make you do business with your company again?

Provide the customer with a fair and constructive experience to get through the turbulent situation. Put their feelings and needs first as much as you can within the scope of your customer service policies.

  1. Seek the customer’s permission

Before you yell off a decision in haste, ask the customer for their permission to allow you to solve the problem. “I understand how inconvenient this is for you. Can I share a few options I’ve come up with to make things right?” It seems obvious that they would want you to fix things, but asking for permission in a heated exchange gives the customer a moment to willingly cooperate and come to the best solution. It puts you on their side and positions you both against the problem rather than customer vs service representative.

At a time when the success of your business rests on word-of-mouth marketing and the need for positive customer experiences, you need to equip yourself and your team with a process for sourcing, hearing, responding to and fixing customer complaints.

Responding to customer complaints is never fun, but it’s part of the job. Taking the time to respond to these complaints and handling each incident with care shows your customers that you value them. This makes it much less likely that they will do business with a competitor. Keep these best practices in mind the next time you go to respond to a review, a tweet, or have a conversation with someone who shares feedback with your business.

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About the author: Sheenal Naiker
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