6 Top Tips for Dealing with Customer Complaints
They say that a customer will tell between 10 and 20 others if they receive particularly bad service from a business. In fact, research has recently suggested that:
66% of B2B customers avoided future communications after a single bad experience
and up to 88% of customers or clients have been influenced by negative online reviews
This is particularly bad news for the likes of Npower, who recently hit the headlines for their “unacceptable” complaints figures. Earlier this year watchdog Consumer Features recorded a concerning 202 complaints per 100,000 customers, on issues such as ever-rising prices and poor customer service.
Despite the sheer volume of complaints which Npower have received, it is not necessarily all bad news for the energy giants. Even with the inhibiting effect which complaints can have on sales, with the proper customer service a complaint is the perfect opportunity to reaffirm a customer’s faith in the company, and even drive another sale. Added benefits of knowing how to handle customer complaints.
So, exactly how can we turn a customer’s negative experience into a positive one?
Here are our 6 Top Tips
1.Be proactive with customer service
If a customer is unhappy with an aspect of your product or service, it may be weeks until they become inconvenienced or dissatisfied enough to complain. By this time, your relationship may be damaged beyond repair. Instead, why not ask your customers for regular feedback? Postal questionnaires, personal phone calls and email campaigns can all provide convenient avenues for customers to voice their concerns, helping to address any issues before they become unmanageable.
Even if it isn’t personally your fault, or even an issue with the company, offer a sincere apology. There’s nothing to lose from saying sorry, and even if you have no power to solve the issue, the fact that you’re willing to try will inspire trust in your customer and strengthen your relationship.
3.Thank the customer for their feedback
Whether you communicate face to face, over the telephone or in writing, an acknowledgment of all complaints will show that you care about the opinions of your customers. Assure the customer that you’ll be taking action to rectify the issue, and offer a deadline by which time you’ll have contacted them with a follow-up.
Remember that time is also money for your customer, especially if they’re paying for a service which may not be satisfactory at the time. The best measure of a business’s customer service is how they respond when things go wrong, so try to get back to your customer before the agreed deadline, and show that you really do care about their complaint. Remember that the longer you leave it, the more chance they’ll have told friends and family, the post man, and even Watchdog or your local MP.
You may not be in a position to offer massive discounts or incentives, but even a small gesture will be remembered for a long time. With any kind of compensation you are simply acknowledging that the customer is unhappy, and that it is unacceptable. You’ll be surprised how much of an impact this can have on the relationship, and by extension your future sales.
6.Lead from the top
Your customer service is only as strong as your weakest employee, so make sure that all staff are aware of your complaints procedure and the importance of keeping customers happy. If you can personally communicate with customers then all for the better, but if not, then ensure that all staff are aware of and committed to excellent customer service.
Take Structured Action
Actions can be easier said than done, especially for larger businesses. But companies will only develop a bad reputation from recurring problems, which often stem from a widespread disregard or unawareness of how to deal with complaints.
Often the solution is a structured, external customer service training programme, which is where a professional and recognised training company comes into its own.
An experienced and proven training company will provide objective advice and hands on training in how to effectively deal with complaints.
Also look for “train the trainer” programmes, where your internal trainers will be given advanced training enabling them to become dedicated customer service experts on how to spread good customer service across your entire company.
Complaints are too expensive and damaging to ignore. Seek professional, rigorous, external training soon.