No one likes to hear complaining – especially from customers. It’s something every industry experiences whether you’re in food service, manufacturing, health care or even public relations. No matter how stellar you think your service is, eventually, someone is going to complain.
I once attended a “Complaint Seminar,” (yes, something like this exists) and the biggest take-away for me was learning that for every one complaint, seven other people felt the same way and just hasn’t said anything. Food coming out cold? Seven other people thought so, too. The thing is, those seven customers aren’t telling YOU, they’re telling everyone else.
Rather than being annoyed or upset with your cranky customer, we should treat them as a consultant. Your FREE business consultant. They’re providing you with information and feedback many companies pay for, giving you the information to improve the customer experience at your business.
How do you take this negative and turn it into a positive? Here are a few tips.
Thank the Customer
The customer is providing you with valuable feedback about your products, service and staff. Feedback you wouldn’t have known otherwise. Showing gratitude demonstrates that you not only heard the complaint, but you also value the relationship to earn their trust and business.
Apologize for the Way They’re Feeling
Simply saying “I’m sorry you’re feeling this way,” or “I apologize for your frustration,” will demonstrate how you value the relationship and you’re taking steps to resolve the issue. NOTE: apologizing for feelings does assume guilt.
Listen and Ask Questions
Even if you’re tempted to plead to your own case, let the customer plead theirs first. When you do respond, avoid using words like “but,” “however” and “actually.” These words will automatically throw up defensive cues. Try “I understand” and “I hear what you’re saying.” Make sure to ask questions so you completely understand the situation.
Ask the Customer Their Ideal Solution
They probably haven’t considered their ideal solution, and again shows that you’re willing to work together to make the customer happy. This gives you insight into their expectations and the direction you need to move in to make them happy. And they will tell their family and friends how you fixed the problem and what great customer service they received.
Learn and Move On
Don’t dwell on the negative of the complaint. With so little time each day, it doesn’t benefit you to put your energy to rehash something over and over. Focus on the positive, committing to making those improvements and move on. Maybe there’s a process change or even a new product sparked by the complaint.
Rather than looking at the complaints as the worst part of your day, take the approach that it’s the best part. There was a problem and you, and your customer, worked together to find the solution. Hopefully, with these tips, you are able to take a second look at handling customer complaints.