Dealing with Customer Complaints

Posted on: July 2, 2019

In our last article we talked about the power of positive customer reviews. But what do you do when a customer isn’t happy? Unfortunately, now and then, we all have to deal with one complaint or another, and there can be an upside. Here are seven steps for turning unhappy customers into fans.

1. Listen, carefully and patiently

If a customer is lambasting you over the phone, keep your cool and listen as carefully as you can. You need to hear the product or service issues, but you also need to hear how this emotionally impacted your customer. Were they embarrassed that a gift was late? Angry that their child was hurt? Disappointed that the size was off and they couldn’t wear the dress for a special occasion?  Don’t take it personally, or get caught up in the emotion, but let them finish their rant and take in as much information as you can. If the complaint is in written form, read it through a couple of times to try to understand.

2. Acknowledge and apologize

Be compassionate, but not emotional. Speak in a steady tone, and with a soft voice if the customer has been loud. Acknowledge that the customer is disappointed or angry, and apologize. Commit to resolving the problem to the customer’s satisfaction. Example: “I’m so sorry the dress didn’t fit. Please give me an opportunity to make this right.”

3. Get to the root cause

You need to really understand what went wrong in order to fix it, not only for this one customer, but to make sure it doesn’t happen to others. Review the process and repeat back the customer’s main points to get confirmation. Example: “So, you did use the sizing chart on our website, and it indicated that you would be a size 8. You ordered the size 8 of the dress, and that’s item number 088765, and it was way too big for you.”

4. Take responsibility for finding a solution

Tell the customer that you are going to take care of YOUR problem, and resolve the issue to their satisfaction. You can simply ask what you can do, or offer some options. Example: “Ok, so as soon as I get off the phone with you, I’m going to look into that sizing chart, but first, I’m going to give you a full refund, and see what else I can do to make this up to you.” Remember that the issue isn’t just the wrong sizing, but the impact of that as well.

5. Offer a better than expected solution

You can turn an unhappy customer into one of your biggest fans by offering a solution that exceeds expectations. Make your offer and ask for confirmation that this is a satisfactory solution. Example: “Did you like the dress? I’m wondering if you’d like to try it in a smaller size, or would you rather choose something else? It’s on me, whatever you decide, and I’m still giving you a refund on what you’ve already paid.” (They choose something else.) “Ok, so I’m going to issue that refund, and I’m going to put a credit for that same amount on your account, so you can pick out something else whenever you’d like to. How does that sound?” Chances are, they will be quite happy.

6. Thank them

Yes, thank them, for bringing the problem to their attention, because you care about your customers and you want them to be happy with every purchase.

7. Follow up

When appropriate, (e.g. after they’ve used the credit) follow up. Call or email to let them know you took the issue seriously and want to make sure they are satisfied. Example: “I wanted to let you know that the sizing chart has been revised, so I sure hope the new dress you ordered earlier today fits perfectly. If you do have any issues at all, please call me directly at ###.” Do make sure that the issue is truly resolved in-house, if it was a problem on your end. Even if it wasn’t, send a more generic email to make sure they were satisfied with whatever the resolution was. Example: “I understand that you had an issue with one of own products recently. If you don’t mind taking a few minutes, please let me know that the issue was resolved to your satisfaction.”