Realistically speaking, it is impossible for any business to satisfy every single customer, no matter how good your product or service is. That means every business is most likely to get customer complaints. Now, the ball is in your court; if you can offer solutions to those complaints, you have turned a shaky customer into a happy customer. Otherwise, a dissatisfied customer is the last thing you need, especially if you are running a small business.
This research from Newvoicemedia may shock you, “An estimated $62 billion is lost by U.S. businesses each year following bad customer experiences.” It is now evident that handling customer complaints is as important as making a “perfect” product and an effective marketing strategy. Therefore, you need a sound customer service strategy to win this frontier. In this article, we will discuss how to handle customer complaints effectively. But before we move onto that, let’s start with the basics.
What Are Customer Complaints?
Customers complaints, in simplest terms, is a difference between the
- Promises from a business related to its products or services, and
- What customers actually get
Or, you can say, it is a deviation from how the customer(s) perceive a product/service/brand. Customer complaints can be of different types and may arise due to different reasons. For instance, it could be due to,
- Poor service quality
- Problems in internal processes
- Improper communication
Now, you might think that these complaints can be a danger sign because your customer is not happy? Actually, it is the exact opposite of what you think. Customer complaints are a “gift to your businesses.” Why? Because only 1 out of 25 unhappy customers file a complaint. Others won’t say a word, and this can be very detrimental for your business.
In fact, research from Esteban Kolsky concluded that 13% of unhappy customers would share their experience with 15 others or even more. That means one unhappy customer can “spoil” 15 other potential customers.
How to Analyze Customer Complaints?
Now that we know what are customer complaints and how important they are, the next step is how to analyze customer complaints. It is important to note that complaints can be of different nature, so you cannot treat them equally. Whenever a customer lodges a complaint, here are few things your customer service representative needs to ask.
- Has the problem happened before?
- Did the business record those complaints before?
- How often do customers complain about the same issue?
- Is there a pattern to how this issue was handled?
- Has the same customer lodged this complaint previously?
When you can answer these questions, it becomes easier to make necessary adjustments and prevent these issues from happening again.
Create And Implement Strict Customer Complaint Policies And Guidelines
Handling customer complaints should not be a random thing in your organization. You need to set strict policies and guidelines and tell your customer service team to follow them religiously. In fact, it is highly recommended to integrate your customer service team with other departments in your organization.
Moreover, every business should set customer service policies according to their nature. However, here are some best practices for setting policies for your customer service team.
- Whenever a customer initiates a complaint, the customer service representative should document it immediately and forward it to the relevant person.
- Set a “complaint owner” designation for every issue reported. That is, someone must be in charge of resolving that complaint.
- Resolve the issue in a predetermined/promised time.
- No case should be closed unless it is solved or the customer is satisfied.
- Set a standard behavior pattern for every employee to deal with the customers.
How to Handle Customer Complaints Effectively?
Alright, here is today’s “main course dish.” Every customer service team wants to know how to handle customer complaints effectively. Well, there are several ways to do it, but these tips will surely help you.
Listen To Your Customer
This is probably the most important step in the customer service process. Listening to your customer carefully almost solves half of the problem because this is where you identify the real issue. Here are some important tips for customer service representatives.
- Don’t categorize any problem as “trivial,” no matter how ordinary it may seem.
- Listen to your customers carefully even if the problem is irrelevant (sometimes, people having a bad day may need someone to listen to them).
- If you are handling a frustrated customer, help them calm down. Most of the time, this can solve issues immediately.
Keep Yourself Calm
Yes, a customer service representative often has to face severe, harsh, and irrelevant words. Getting angry is a natural thing, but it won’t help your business. Customers usually don’t make personal attacks, and even if they do, it is most likely they are highlighting an underlying problem. Just don’t lose your cool because not only will you lose customers, but you also fail to identify an underlying problem.
Problem acknowledgment plays an important role from the psychological point of view. When you paraphrase or repeat what your customer said, it let them know that you have heard and understood their problem.
Problem acknowledgment doesn’t necessarily mean that you are in agreement with your customer. It is a gesture that you understand what your customer just said, and you respect where they are coming from. You can start with “If I understand you correctly…” or “I understand this must be very frustrating for you,” and then repeat what your customer said.
Apologize Them And Offer Gratitude
Now, this may seem very difficult, but if you can swallow your pride and apologize to your customers for what they have faced, you have done your business a great favor. Apologizing doesn’t mean you are wrong, but it calms your customer immediately. Moreover, thanking your customer for reaching out to you will make them realize that you respect them and you are ready to resolve the issue.
Ask Your Customer Relevant Questions
Once your customers realize you have listened to their problems and they settle down, now is the time to start asking them questions and get all the relevant facts. Make sure you get every piece of relevant information that can help you solve the problem quickly.
Asking questions make your customer realize that you are actually interested in resolving the issue. Ultimately, it helps you gain their trust. However, don’t ask the same questions repeatedly; it can be very irritating for your customers.
Offer A Speedy Solution
Once you have all the information you need, try to sort out the problem because making them wait is even more frustrating for them. Moreover, be flexible in your approach and try to go the extra mile for customer satisfaction (if your company’s policy allows it). For instance, you can offer them a discount on future purchases or send a gift.
However, don’t do these things;
- Never offer a solution that you cannot implement.
- Avoid passing a customer up a chain of command because this will make matters worse.
Record/Document Your Customer Complaints
Recording/documenting customer complaints is necessary even if the problem is resolved. These complaints actually identify the flaws or issues in your system as a whole. For instance, there can be a problem in your marketing strategy, or your advertisements are not clear enough. Therefore, it is vital to document every complaint and discuss them in monthly or annual meetings for betterment.
Even if you have sorted out the problem, a follow-up is mandatory as it can be the icing on the cake as well. A follow-up is a clear indication that you care for your customers and their concerns. In fact, an apology at this stage again will “melt” your customer’s heart completely. Don’t forget; a happy customer is your best advertising channel.
Common Customer Service Mistakes You Should Avoid
Some businesses make mistakes or even blunders when it comes to handling customer complaints; make sure you are not one of them. Here are few common mistakes you should avoid while dealing with customer complaints.
Over Automating Customer Contact Points
Automation technology is a great and cost-effective way to resolve customer complaints. However, it doesn’t account for human emotions. That said, automation is not a reliable option for unusual cases. Besides, not every customer likes to communicate through “chatbots.”
Not Answering Customers Calls Quickly
Nobody likes to wait for their calls to be answered, especially an angry customer. In fact, an automated voicemail also leaves a bad impression that you are too busy to answer your customer personally. You need to evaluate how large your customer service force should be to answer the queries timely.
Too Much Reliance On Scripts
Scripts are designed by successful professionals, but they are not RULES. They are just basic guidelines, and a customer service agent must have the skills to deal with every situation accordingly.
Excessively Transferring Calls To Other Personnel
If a customer care agent, after trying his/her best, couldn’t resolve a complaint, then it is better to redirect the customer to someone who knows what to do. Connecting your customers to irrelevant persons will only make matters worse.
Failing To Review The Call History Of A Customer
Well, asking the same questions to your customers without reviewing their call history is a great way to make them furious. For instance, if a customer has filed a complaint and calls again to know his/her complaint status, but the customer care agent starts asking about the problem again, it will be a “cardinal sin,”; don’t do that.