It is never nice to receive a complaint about your business. You value the work you do and work hard to provide a quality service, so for that to fall short for a customer can feel disheartening. However, how you handle a complaint will say a lot about your business and being able to provide effective resolutions will be a major asset. With the right tools, you can use your responses to complaints to enhance your customer experience and turn a negative situation into a positive.
Why is handling customer complaints so important?
While it is rarely a pleasant process, learning about what has made a customer dissatisfied and providing an appropriate response is a vital part of your business. It can even help retain customers and create loyalty due to the service recovery paradox.
The service recovery paradox is the principle that a customer or client will be more satisfied with a business if they have corrected a fault or problem than if they had received a standard service with no fault in the first place. This seems counterintuitive but research shows that customers are more loyal to companies who have rectified faults for them than those that provided a faultless experience.
Response to a service failure often involves a more personal and human element. It allows you to engage directly with the customer and hear their grievance. Applying empathy to their situation will help make them feel validated and like someone is actually listening. Providing a response creates a sense of ‘perceived justice’ in the customer, that a wrong has been righted by your action, which endears them to you.
Engage with the customer
If the complaint came in via an email or other text-based format, reach out as soon as possible. If it is in person or over the phone, stay calm, and listen to what your customer has to say. Remember to listen actively. Take on board what they are saying, use positive body language like eye contact and nodding to show that you are paying attention, show empathy, and avoid rushing to give an answer or solution to quickly. Ask questions to try and find more about the nature of the problem and learn how you can help. The issue might not be as bad as the customer is making it out to be and you can apply a simple solution – but a big part is often having their complaint heard and their feelings validated. If it is a more complex problem, having access to all the facts will make sure that your response is appropriate and accurate.
One of the key factors in if a service failure can be recovered is the speed of the response. Responding quickly will show that you value your customer’s time and are making them a priority. Prioritising them will go a long way, especially if the fault has made them feel neglected or unseen. If possible, create a filter, folder, or inbox where you can store negative messages so that they can be responded to quickly. This enables you to swiftly turn around customer complaints which makes them feel seen. When you do respond, show sympathy for their situation.
Go the extra mile
This is a critical step in recovering the customer. Being able to offer a bonus or provide something by way of recompense will help them not only forgive the initial fault but make them far more likely to return to your business. For example, providing a discount code or voucher for their next purchase or visit. Provided you have resolved the initial fault, these extras are what people remember and will instantly create a more positive experience. Also, by providing a discount, you are encouraging them to return for another visit. It is the perfect thing to offer to entice a disgruntled customer back. Consider empowering your team to be able to offer these sorts of perks to customers to help smooth over complaints. As long as they are not being given out too frequently, and nothing is being promised that cannot be delivered, it is the perfect way to recapture a customer.
Once everything has been cleared up, try and follow-up on the customer if possible. Check on them and make sure that the solution you’ve provided has definitely fixed the fault that they have experienced. Plenty of people don’t enjoy complaining to companies and might be inclined to take the first answer presented to them so that they can continue with their day. A follow-up will further show that you are still concerned about their experience even when many other business owners would’ve moved on.
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