The Management Blog
Tips & advice to help you improve your performance
If you’re working with customers then it’s not a question of whether you will have to deal with customer complaints, but how you will deal with them.
Although you should treat each complaint individually, you should have a strategy in place for handling complaints to leave the client happy, but also protect your organisation and brand.
Before I talk about the 3 don’ts, let’s look at how you should handle a complaint.
No matter how good your process is or the quality of your products are, there will inevitably come a time when you have to deal with a customer complaint.
This could happen for many, many reasons.
The standards that people expect today from business has exponentially grown over the years and if you don’t keep up with those requirements, you may find yourself receiving more and more complaints.
Make sure you know how to handle complaints in the right way with our Complaint Handling Training.
Here is a step-by-step guide for dealing with a complaining customer.
Dealing With Customer Complaints
If you receive a complaint, take a moment’s time-out
Even if you are criticised or blamed for something, it’s never worthwhile being driven by an emotional response. You need to give yourself a moment or two to appreciate the reasons why this particular complaint has been brought to your attention.
Analyse the big picture first
Try to listen to the big picture, which means finding out not just the incidental details but the essence of the meaning behind the complaint.
Understand exactly what’s being said
It’s not easy but try not to be too defensive particularly if you don’t think you have made a mistake.
But try to put yourself into the shoes of the customer and see it from their perspective.
Try to take personal responsibility for the issue at hand
It may be not your fault, but you don’t want to make the customer feel but they are causing you an issue. You need to confirm back to them your understanding of the issue and make sure that is clear in the customer’s mind
When you’ve done this, you can now start to find a solution for the issue
It’s always polite and good business ethos to offer an apology even if you weren’t at fault. Sometimes it may well be that the apologies enough to placate an angry customer
DO NOT make excuses
Instead, explain briefly why this may have happened. The customer doesn’t want to hear excuses like poor delivery service from your suppliers or bad weather or Brexit or anything like that
Think about what kind of compensation might be due to this customer
Trying to remain calm even if the customer is confrontational
You are trying to turn this issue into something which can be solved and you getting irate is not going to help matters
Attempt to resolve this as quickly as possible
You want the customer to feel that they are getting your complete attention and speed of response is one of the areas that they will be looking for here
Deal with a complaint in the best way possible especially in the customer’s eyes
By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, you will see first of all what they actually require even if this includes recompense, and also what you can do to turn the whole situation around
What you want to end up with is a customer who has the complaint dealt with and has been given the opportunity to still remain loyal to you. What is not possible is to always prevent complaints; you’re handling of them though, makes it possible to turn a negative situation into a more positive one more frequently.
Don’t Do These When Dealing With A Complaint
Handle a complaint well and it can build a stronger relationship with your customers.
Here are some tips on how not to deal with customer complaints:
Don’t Get Defensive
While on the phone with a client, remember that your mission is to do everything in your power to keep the client happy and as a loyal customer.
Although this is not always possible, that should be your main goal.
Therefore, it is not useful to get defensive and defend the product or service and your company. This will make the client feel like you are not seeing their view, and disregarding their opinion.
Don’t Pass On the Call
Perhaps you are really busy at the time when there is a customer request to speak to you, or simply don’t want to deal with it.
However, passing on the call to someone else can be a critical mistake.
If the issue has escalated so much that the customer is asking to speak to a manager, than you don’t want another employee without your training and expertise to try and settle with them.
Bite the bullet and take the call, doing your best to address the client’s concerns.
It is often much easier to quickly make something up to protect your product or organisation instead of telling the truth.
However, that fib can be very damaging should it come up to surface.
While you may not be honest about sensitive company information, take great care that what you reveal to the customer is the complete and honest truth.
Remember that a single situation can blow up to be a huge scandal if it is not handled right, putting not only your own job at risk, but the success of the entire business.
Clients are the bread and butter of every single business, so addressing their complaints properly is essential to keeping your company’s good reputation.
If you’re looking for some additional research and tips on this topic then please check out our guide on How To Handle Difficult Customers where I cover 8 specific steps that you need to follow to ensure a happy outcome!
Many people who manage teams in customer service are aware of the need to display vision and customer focus in their businesses, but less people are able to apply this in the real-world atmosphere of the hot-house business.
To create a culture takes time and effort. And you can’t demand this quality service from people; they have to want to deliver it from their hearts, and that’s not an easy concept to transfer to people.
Chances are, whether you have direct client contact or not, you and your team members are providing some sort of customer service. You may not be dealing with outside clients, but in almost every situation you have some sort of internal client (another team, accounting, human resources, etc). Regardless of who your client may be, you need to have the customer service skills necessary to make your customers happy.
But how do you offer great customer service, from a management standpoint?
The happier your team members, the more their attitudes will rub off on their customer interactions – guaranteed.
A lot of people view marketing as the method of selling a product. Marketing, to them, means creating a print ad, television commercial, or radio segment and hoping it brings traffic so that they can make a few sales.
Marketing, in reality, is really much more than your ability to advertise your products, though. Marketing is your ability to brand yourself and make yourself known amongst members of your target audience, including your current client base. Marketing includes the way your organisation treats the public as a whole. It’s a culmination of your values, your philosophies, your team members, and their mindsets.
So when you next start to train a group of new employees, how will you explain your company’s marketing campaigns? The truth is that most of your employees don’t have all of the real skills necessary to develop a strong marketing campaign from A to Z but if you utilize the skills they do have and supplement them with outside resources you’ll do a bang-up job putting your company in the public spotlight.
These are a few things you should consider as you market your organisation:
Keeping your customers happy IS a marketing method and its one you should take very, very seriously. After all, your current clients play a huge role in your marketing as well – and if they are spreading information about bad experiences you won’t receive as good a response from your traditional marketing campaigns either.
You’ve all been excited about a new product or service launch at least once over the course of your career. If you haven’t, I’d have to question whether or not sales and management are the right career paths for you.
I find that one of the most important things we have to consider when training our customer service representatives is teaching them the difference between hype and excitement. Knowing the difference will make it easy for your customer service reps to present new products to clients without making false statements.
Are you starting to see the differences? We can hype up a new product or service but much of what we say will have been fashioned to sound good whether it is true or not. If your customer service team is really excited about a product they’ll be able to talk about it and sell it without making false statements or misleading your current and new customers.
Today I’d like you to take a step back and think about not only your customers and what they think of you but also about your organisation’s position within the marketplace.
I’m going to ask you three important questions and you really need to answer them as honestly as possible:
The answers to these questions should tell you quite a bit about your organisation. If the products and services you provide aren’t memorable are you really making the impact you want on the marketplace? Shouldn’t you be offering stellar customer service rivaled by none coupled with services that no one else can even come close to offering?
If not, you need to step back, think about your customer service skills (and products) and consider what needs to be changed. You are, after all, in business to survive and succeed. Make sure your customers know you want them to succeed as well. Only then will you really matter.
We all know how important it is to provide great customer service. Happy customers tend to become loyal customers and a loyal customer is likely to stick with you for years on end, regardless of minor price changes.
There are some additional benefits to developing client loyalty, though, and each has a significant impact on your organisation as a whole. Consider the following:
It’s easy to see why focusing on strong customer service is important to customer loyalty and the overall success of your business. Do you do anything special to encourage your employees to give better customer service – or to encourage your customers to remain loyal?
Now that you’ve had a chance to determine whether or not your customer service team members have the skills necessary to get the job done, let’s take a look at a model you can follow while training and monitoring your group.
The PACT customers service model was designed to ensure that all major aspects of the customer service process are covered with every transactions. The model itself is as follows:
In short, you are responsible for making sure that your customer service team members know exactly what process they are to follow from the beginning of a transaction straight through to the end and they should have a positive attitude throughout the entire experience. They should be able to clearly and effectively communicate with not only your client but with other internal teams who may play a role in completing the job as well. Finally, they should have a good sense of time management – getting the job done within a reasonable amount of time and reporting back to the client as soon as possible.
Does your customer service team follow the PACT model? If not, can you make a few simple tweaks to get them back on track? You’ll be surprised at the increased customer service satisfaction levels you may achieve by doing so.
What do you see when you lookat your current customer service team? Do you see a highly functioning group of individuals capable of keeping your clients happy or do you see – well – something else.
I’ve spent years working with customer service representatives as well as HR managers and salesmen. We train IT helpdesk staff on how to hone their own customer service skills; we teach customer service representatives the proper steps for dealing with complaints, and we even provide customer service trainers with their own training courses.
What I’ve found, after years of watching these people in their different roles, is that there are really three core factors that make up a great customer service team. They are:
Do the members of your current customer service team exhibit these qualities and skills? Are they polite and productive at the same time? Do your customers love working with them?
You should have answers to all of these questions. If not, you need to take a closer look at your team!
How well do you rate with your customers? Are you providing them with the absolute best customer service possible or is your service quality, or the quality of your product, viewed as being low?
Here are a few key indicators that will help you determine whether or not there is something serious that needs changing:
Poor quality control and customer service can seriously backfire on any organisation. It causes duplicate efforts, negative attitudes, and either an overabundance of work (due to constant corrections) or a lack of work (because no one wants to deal with you).
Are you experiencing any of these problems within your department or team? If so, it’s time to resassess your customer service procedures and make some changes before it’s too late.
What do you do when a customer calls to ask you for help or information? Do you merely give him what he asks for and end the call?
I’d venture to guess the answer to that question is YES.
Is that really the best level of customer service you could give, though? Is there anything else you could do to make your clients happy?
The honest answer to this question is YES as well.
The problem is that you don’t know what you could be doing simply because you haven’t bothered to ask.
There are three questions you should ask your customers. You don’t have to ask them daily, weekly, or even monthly. Once or twice a year survey your customers and get an idea of what they expect, what makes them happy, and what they wish you were doing better for them. Ask these questions:
The answers to these questions will prove to be incredibly valuable. What you do with these answers is up to you, but if you take a proactive approach I think you’ll find that your client’s view of your customer service levels will increase dramatically!