We all get complaints. No matter how great our products are, there will be those that are unhappy and eager to tell you about it. More importantly, they will also be eager to tell everyone they know, and that’s why you need to take a strategic approach to dealing with complaints. Here’s a four step plan to converting complainers into promotional advocates for your business.
1. Create a customer satisfaction policy that is focused on long term cost/benefit
What’s the value of a long-term, repeat customer, who also refers others to your company? Compare that to the value of a single lost sale or wholesale cost you paid for the item. The difference between those two numbers should set the tone for your customer satisfaction policy. The easier it is for your customers to feel they’ve been treated fairly, the more value you’ll get from them in the long run.
2. Empower every employee who deals with customers to resolve issues
There is nothing more frustrating than being put on hold and bounced from one rep to another, trying to find the person who can actually help you. This just makes things worse. Give every employee who interacts with customers the authority to make things right for the client – and don’t wail on them after the fact. If the customer is happy, you won.
3. De-escalate the situation as quickly as possible
Teach those employees how to deal with angry, demanding clients without taking it personally, and how to calm things down so they can get the information they need to find a solution. Expressing genuine sympathy for the customer’s disappointment is a great way to start. Then let them know that you will fix the problem. “Well, that certainly would be annoying! Let’s take care of that right now. I just need to get a bit of information from you.” When you have the details, discuss options with the customer. Would they like a replacement? Perhaps try a different brand or type of a similar product? Keep the product with a partial refund? Remember that your goal is not to earn a profit from this particular sale. It’s to maintain or even improve your relationship with this customer.
4. Keep records
It’s easy to blame complaints on fickle, finicky clients, but those complaints can be of real benefit to you. Keeping detailed records of every complaint can help you identify trends that might not be apparent otherwise. Have you had numerous complaints about the same product or products from the same manufacturer? Did several people misunderstand the details of a promotion? Are assembly or installation instructions a common issue? Analyzing the information you get from complaints can help you improve quality and reduce the number of future issues.