Dealing with customer complaints

Following on from last week’s blog I want to show you how to build instant trust when handling an irate customer.

Research has shown that when making complaints customers want three things; an apology, someone to take ownership and a speedy resolution. All three of these things therefore need to be covered.

You must also remember that when someone calls to complain they are usually in a heightened state of emotion. This might be in the form of anger, frustration, distress or a combination. The first thing you must do is ‘acknowledge’ the main EMOTION that you detect they are feeling and then show empathy. For example:

“Mr Jones, I can clearly hear that our error has caused you a great deal of distress and I can fully understand why you feel the way that you do. If the same thing had happened to me I am sure I would feel exactly the same way you do right now.”

This statement then needs to be backed up with your sincere apology and assurance that YOU are the person that will resolve this issue for them as a matter of urgency. For example:

“I would like to apologise for the fact that we have clearly let you down and fallen far short of our normal standards of service. However, I will take personal responsibility for ensuring the matter is resolved to your satisfaction as quickly as possible.”

You may require more details from them in order to process their complaint so beware. When they start to ‘retell’ their story they are likely to get emotional again. If they do then you need to acknowledge this and allow them to calm again before continuing.

As discussed last week trust requires an exact alignment between what you say you will do and what you actually do. Therefore a great way to gain trust is by offering to call them back in one hour to update them, regardless of whether you have a resolution or not. Just make sure you do call back WITHIN the hour, 65 minutes later is 5 minutes too late!

Finally – remember my favourite customer complaint analogy:

“Getting a customer complaint is like discovering a hole in your roof, the sooner you can mend it the less damage is caused.”


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