According to James Brown, we used to live in a man’s world, but now we live in a complainer’s world. I say this because social media has made our world very small and the complaints of our customers very visible.
No matter how in tune you are with your customers and how hard you work to ensure your business is operating at an exceptional level, complaints are inevitable. And many times, there is truth behind them. There are the customers you have to be prepared to handle who are happy being unhappy and won’t be satisfied. But for the most part you have patrons with legitimate complaints, and even if it’s only slightly, there is some truth behind every single one of their grievances.
It’s easy to view a complaint as a failure, but if you adjust your optic, you’ll see that they offer valuable information that your customers are giving you. Instead of leaving without warning, they offer you the opportunity to address their issue and correct it. Most of the time, issues can be solved quickly and easily which is a win/win for you as a business owner as well as your customer. Not only have you made your business better for all of your customers, but you’ve likely built a stronger relationship with one or many of your customers. Strong relationships lead to loyal consumers.
Conversely, if you don’t address complaints properly, your unhappy customer has more power to damage your reputation than they’ve ever had in the past. Social media and the web have made it possible for businesses to reach a wider audience, but they’ve also made it easy for more people to see and criticize your company. That’s why we’re sharing tips on how to turn a public complaint into an opportunity that can make your business shine!
Have a Plan Before It Happens
As stated earlier, complaints are inevitable so before it happens, have a plan. Know who handles complaints for each department or program so that grievances are funneled as fast as possible to the correct person. Handling your customer’s complaints quickly is important in turning a potentially sour situation into a positive experience for them. Creating a procedure ahead of time will provide the next level of service to your patrons and lower the stress on your employees.
I Repeat DO NOT DELETE COMPLAINTS! (See my point about not using all caps below). Unless it is vulgar, crude or abusive, do not delete a complaint. That makes you appear as if you have something to hide, and we know that’s not true. You’re working hard to operate a successful business and you have nothing to hide. Take the time to respond and address the problems your customers are telling you about. Never delete their comments.
Address it Quickly
When I say quickly, I mean ASAP. The faster the grievance is acknowledged, the more your consumer feels you’re listening to them. You don’t need to have the answer before you respond, that’s not realistic, but you do need to show your customer that they are heard and that you care.
TYPE IN ALL CAPS
THIS FEELS AGGRESSIVE AND MAKES PEOPLE FEEL LIKE YOU’RE ANGRY AND/OR YELLING. Don’t use all caps. Ever. Not to address a complaint, not to respond to an email, not even in a text to your dog who can’t read. Using all caps makes you sound like a jerk.
Take Responsibility and Fix It
Be open minded to the fact that there is probably some truth behind the complaint and take responsibility for it. Self-awareness is a powerful thing. Once we acknowledge our wrong doing, it makes it easier for people to forgive us.
Be a Robot
Robots are cool but they’re terrible at customer service. Be personable by telling them your name and have a real live conversation where you show you care about them, their issue and making sure they’re taken care of through this process. Follow up after things have been resolved to see how they felt about their experience and check to make sure they’re fully satisfied. The fact that you follow up with them will automatically increase their level of satisfaction.
Make It Private
The thing about social media is that it’s, well, social. So when you have someone who is complaining on your page or site, there is a chance that other people will chime in as well. It’s best to make the conversation private so you don’t risk getting bombarded. Here’s an example of how you can move the conversation from a public thread to a private one:
“Hi Joe, I’m so sorry this happened to you. I really want to help fix this for you so please send me a direct message or give me a call so we can talk at 555-555-5555. – Brooke”
Whether it is an email, private message or a personal phone call, it’s better to approach the conversation privately then continuing on a public thread. Plus, a private conversation allows you to work one on one with your customer to resolve the matter.
Take it Personally
Whenever a complaint comes your way from a customer, it’s due to a negative experience. They’re not pleased or happy by what’s happened with the business, but they’re not mad at you personally. You’re not their target, they’re upset by the situation and they want to see it resolved. It’s easy to feel personally attacked when customers have a tone of dissatisfaction, but set your emotions in the deepest and darkest part of a desk drawer then calmly listen to their grievance. When you don’t take things personally, you’re much better equipped to make sure the customer has a delightful experience.
Empathize. Put yourself in their shoes. As they tell you why they’re upset and you begin to grasp it, repeat it back to them so they know you understand where they’re coming from. We’re all humans and it makes us feel better when we know others understand us. You will be amazed at how the act of truly empathizing with someone will instantly lessen their anxiety and anger.
Argue, Insult or Accuse
Be kind. Be respectful. Be professional. There is never a moment that it is even remotely appropriate to argue with, insult or accuse your customer. They chose to give you their money for your services, be appreciative. If they’re being abusive or inappropriate, do not stoop to their level. There is a way to fire them as your customer in a professional way.
Go Above and Beyond
Someone in some way had a negative experience with your company. That has the potential to leave a lasting bad taste in their mouth which does not work in your favor when seeking word of mouth referrals from your consumers. Make sure you go above and beyond for your patrons in how you treat them, solve their problems and prevent future problems. Make your customer feel important and special. It might sound strange, but thank them for complaining. Remember, they could have stopped using your services without a word, but they took the time to give you the opportunity to fix their issue when they communicated their grievance. Their complaint is a gift and when I was a kid, my parents taught me that it’s polite to thank people when you receive a gift from them.
Be Silent – Silence Speaks for Itself
When it comes to public grievances, silence is deafening. Ignoring a complaint is like a customer approaching you to discuss a problem and instead of responding, you turn around and walk away. It’s rude, in fact to 82% of customers think it’s unforgivably rude according to this Forbes article. Respond to your customers even if you don’t have the solution. Plus, when you don’t respond on social media, it’s not only the customer who complains that sees your poor behavior, it’s everyone who sees the post.
One last vital point, which was briefly addressed previously, is to follow up with your customer to make sure their problem is fixed and to get an assessment of their experience. There’s always opportunity to improve your customer’s experiences with you. Doing your best to offer your consumers the very best customer service makes your business stronger and your customers more satisfied. Check out our blog on more ways you can improve your customer service.