Unless your business is 100% perfect, complaints from customers, clients, suppliers and other people you work with are inevitable. Even the most successful companies experience negative feedback and criticism from their customers from time to time and whether you like it or not, the chances are that you will, too. The key to successful customer service relationships is not trying to avoid complaints, but striving to manage them in a way that works effectively for everybody involved.
This is our guide on how to deal with complaints from the various sources and channels they may arise from.
1. Complaints over the Phone
Though some millennials may have you believe that the telephone is an outdated piece of technology, it is still often used as the go-to piece of equipment for making complaints to a business when you aren’t happy with the standard of the service you have received. Phonecalls like this must be taken seriously and must be dealt with as soon as possible. When taking a complaint call, ensure you make notes, either digitally or in hard copy, to ensure that you have certain pieces of key information, including the customer’s name, the exact nature of their complaint, the time they called and any other specific details that might help to resolve the issue. When speaking to somebody who has a complaint, it is important to remain as calm as you can and to avoid taking any signs of hostility such as raised voices or irate tone in a personal way. Try to empathise and listen carefully so that you can offer a solution, rather than entering into a confrontation.
If possible, try to resolve the issue over the phone there and then. If you can’t do this because the situation is a little too complex, try to offer as much information as you can and explain that you are escalating the issue as a matter of urgency. Even if this just means that you need to check with other members of your team or do a little digging around to find the person’s order, reassurance like this can go a long way when it comes to calming a potentially explosive situation. Lastly, when dealing with a complaint over the phone, don’t be afraid to put the customer on hold while you gather your thoughts and any information you need. As long as you explain why you are doing this and don’t leave them waiting for an unreasonable amount of time, this tactic can help to calm both you and the irate caller.
2. Complaints by Email
The key to responding to email complaints is to take your time to fully understand the issue as much as you can before sending a reply. Ensure that you read everything the customer has written at least twice to make sure that you haven’t missed any key information. If the wording of the email doesn’t make sense or there are some ambiguities, it can be worth checking with colleagues to make sure you haven’t overlooked something. If necessary, send a response that asks the customer to clarify what they are looking for and how they would like you to help.
When replying to customer’s who have complained, always ensure that you start the email with a positive tone, even if you think the complaint might be unjustified. Thanking them for getting in touch and explaining that you value their business can be a good opening gambit as it comes across as helpful and professional immediately. When you do offer a solution, ensure that you explain as much as you can about the situation so the customer understands fully. This may mean quoting policy documents, terms and conditions or pricing, so look out for any cumbersome jargon that might not make sense outside of your business bubble. Perhaps most importantly, ensure that you respond to the email as soon as you can, even if it’s just to send a quick acknowledgement that explains you have received it. Not doing this will look bad for your business and can potentially make the situation a lot worse.
3. Social Media Complaints
In today’s climate, this is probably the most potentially damaging type of complaint any business can experience. The public nature of social media means your customers and competitors can all see what has been written about your service or products and unfortunately, negative news tends to spread very quickly. Ideally, the first step to de-escalating a potentially damaging complaint on social media is to encourage the customer to contact you by other means such as email or phone. This not only minimises the risk of public embarrassment but also gives you the opportunity to deal with specifics of the issue on a more personal level. Entering into a debate or argument on twitter, facebook or Instagram is never a good idea, even if you’re in the right on this occasion. Keep social media posts, brief, polite and most importantly, to the point. Always make it clear how your customers can contact you if they have a complaint and ensure that you scan everything you post for tone, clarity and professionalism.
4. Dealing With Complaints Face to Face
Though relatively rare in the world of digital marketing, face to face complaints do happen and they need to be dealt with as soon as they arise. Most people will remain civil and use basic manners, however, if you are faced with somebody who is angry or upset, there are some things you can do. Try to use neutral, welcoming body language. Be mindful of things like jaw clenching, arms folding, head shaking or tutting. All of these are likely to make things a lot worse. If the customer is displaying aggressive body language, try not to mirror this and instead do the opposite. Speaking at a gentle pace and volume while remaining assertive, but not aggressive is usually a good approach to take. Finally, never underestimate the power of a smile. Even if the person complaining is frowning, if you are smiling and calm, the chances are they will begin to feel less uptight and agitated.