How to Respond to a Customer Complaint

Unhappy customers are bad news for any company. It only takes one bad review online to cause considerable damage to your company’s reputation and can take months to repair.

There can be several reasons for a customer complaint; some may have unrealistic expectations and others may just have poor dispositions. However, we must be honest; the majority probably has a legitimate grievance.

Whatever the cause, upset customers are still your customers who (if handled properly) will continue to give you business.

You’ve heard the expression: “The customer is always right.” I have a slightly different spin on that. The customer may not always be right, but you never make the customer wrong. In other words, you never tell him that he is wrong or that you don’t believe what he is saying. That would only serve to further upset him.

Here are some basic steps to follow in resolving a customer complaint satisfactorily for both parties.

1. Don’t put off or avoid the matter. Get in contact with the customer as soon as you are informed about it.

2. Get the whole story. Ask them what happened and listen without interrupting. When they are done, give them a good acknowledgment so they know they have been heard. Sometimes that is even enough to diffuse the entire situation.

3. Sincerely apologize to the customer for the way the situation has made them feel. Do not give excuses for the problem or try to justify it.

4. Determine what the customer is seeking and work out the best solution. Often they’ll surprise you by asking for less than you thought you’d have to give—especially when they know your apology and intention is genuine. The cost to you in resolving the matter is likely to be far less than the potential loss of business by not handling it. Make sure you have the customer’s agreement on the final resolution.

5. Act on the solution with speed. Getting it fully resolved quickly to the customer’s satisfaction is your best chance of turning the situation to your advantage. They may be so impressed with your quick and considerate handling that they have to tell others about it.

6. Follow-up to ensure the customer is completely satisfied, especially if you had to enlist the help of others for the handling. Any headway you made will be for naught if the customer feels that you forgot about him as soon as you hung up the phone or he walked out of your office.

Mistakes can happen. It’s how you promptly acknowledge and handle them that really make a good impression on people. Customers will remember you, and happily give you another chance to service them when you choose to correct problems to their complete satisfaction.

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