Handling Customer Complaints

You probably strive to deliver your best service to customers. However, despite these efforts, a customer’s experience sometimes may not measure up to your standards. Handling customer complaints can be disheartening, but you shouldn’t lose hope. Studies show more than 85 percent of dissatisfied customers can come away with a positive impression of your business if you handle their complaints the right way. Keep the following tips in mind to turn disgruntled customers into brand advocates.

Monitor All Channels to Respond in a Timely Fashion

In the past, businesses could expect all their customer complaints to come face-to-face, from comment forms, or over the phone. With the rise of digital technology, customers are now griping about their negative experiences over email, through website forms, and on a variety of social media channels. It’s important to monitor all these channels so you can respond to customer complaints in a timely fashion.

Modern customers don’t want to wait. A Convince & Convert study found 42 percent of social media users expect a response to their online customer complaints within 60 minutes. Roughly a third of social media users expect a response within just 30 minutes. You don’t need all the answers right away. Simply acknowledging the complaint, letting the customer know you’ll look into it and when he or she can expect to hear from you again can buy you more time.

Listen and Deliver a Personalized Response

Venting can be very therapeutic for unhappy customers. You might not always like what you’re hearing, but it’s important to let your customers have their say without interrupting them. Listen to the complaints made, because these should inform your response.

Customers can see through a script. They don’t want to feel they’re hearing the same old spiel that you tell everyone. Speak from the heart and you can’t go wrong. The same goes for written correspondence. Sending an automated response shows you care little for the customer’s individual circumstances. Take time to craft a unique response to win your customer over. Whether you’re speaking or writing your response, make sure you use the customer’s name and refer back to their situation in your reply.

Your customers also don’t want to hear a message delivered by a robot. Forget what you’ve heard about staying cheerful on the phone. It can be more appropriate to take a serious or sympathetic tone talking to customers who feel wronged by your organization. Just take care to stay calm. Even if your customer is angry or frustrated or you don’t agree with what you’re hearing, you must remain professional at all times when handling complaints.

Acknowledge Your Mistakes

If you or one of your colleagues has made a mistake, own it. Apologize for what’s happened and let the customer know you’ll do your best to rectify the situation. Admitting the error may hurt your pride a little, but your customers will appreciate your honesty.

When you take ownership of past mistakes, you send a message that you understand what went wrong and you’ll make every effort to ensure the error isn’t repeated. Acknowledging mistakes makes your business appear more human and transparent. When companies show themselves openly, warts and all, customers find it easier to trust them. When customers trust your company, they’ll be more likely to become loyal supporters of it, even if mistakes have been made in the past.

Take Public Complaints to a Private Space

Social media has become one of the most popular avenues for customer complaints. Customers love making negative comments on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media channels because they know these public grievances are harder to ignore. When you spot these complaints, take them to a more private space so you can resolve the issue.

You might suggest the customer send a private message to your social media profile or leave your customer care phone number and a contact name so you can discuss the matter further. This action shows you take the complaint seriously and want to work directly with the customer for a satisfactory resolution. It also deters other social media users from adding input into the situation which could be detrimental for your business.

While you want to make customer complaints private as soon as possible, you should leave the initial correspondence public rather than deleting it. Deleting comments can appear dishonest, as if you’re attempting to silence any negative publicity. No matter what’s the complaint, your calm, helpful response will help neutralize it. Remembering that your customer isn’t angry with you personally, but the situation, can help you keep a cool head.

Hire a Virtual Receptionist

A virtual receptionist sounds like a futuristic secretary, but it could be the answer to many of your customer complaint dilemmas. Virtual receptionists are professional receptionists who work remotely on behalf of your organization. These skilled professionals have extensive experience handling all elements of customer support, so they know how to apologize when your company has dropped the ball and listen when your customers need to vent. They are also taught all about your business, its products and services, and procedures, so they can explain what can be done to resolve problems. If you’re not confident handling customer complaints personally, a virtual receptionist can be a valuable addition to your organization.

Follow Up with Your Customers

Never assume you’ve resolved an issue to your customer’s satisfaction. Instead, go the extra mile and follow up to make sure the customer’s needs are met. As a rule of thumb, try to follow up all customer complaints within a few days. Hopefully you’ll find you’ve turned the customer’s perception of your business around. But you may also find someone else has dropped the ball, that the person higher up the chain of command hasn’t returned a phone call or replacement goods were never sent. When you act early you can still right the situation and solve the problem for your customer.

A complaining customer is an unhappy one, but their mood often isn’t set in stone. Take the right steps handling complaints, and your disgruntled customers can become some of your biggest supporters.