Complaints are a natural part of running a business. There is no such thing as a “perfect business.” Sooner or later, your business is going to get a complaint from a customer or a disgruntled ex-employee. What sets a great business apart from a crummy business is how complaints are handled.
Best Practices To Use Before Complaints Become A Problem
When dealing with complaints, First Fidelity Reserve, a gold and silver dealer based in Beaumont, TX, recommends the following action items.
Do Not Discount Your Customer’s Complaint
Most complaints are the result of service that may have been sub-par. Pricing that doesn’t match ads, employees in a bad mood, or incorrect orders can all result in a business getting a complaint. If a customer complains about any of these things, listed to them with an open ear and an open mind. Can you fix the issue easily and rapidly? If so, fix the problem. If the complaint is because of a moody employee, maybe additional training in customer service is in order.
Foster A Culture Of Service
First Fidelity Reserve has established a gold standard when it comes to mitigating customer complaints. When your business implements a “customer first” approach to service, complaints tend to decrease over time. Do you answer your phone before the third ring, every time? If not, somebody is going to complain. Do your employees greet every customer who walks through your door and do they thank them for their patronage when they walk out? If not, your customers are going to think you don’t care about them… and then you get another complaint. Remember, you rely on your customers to keep your business afloat. If you are treating them as though they aren’t important to your success, you’re going to get complaints.
Respond As Soon As Possible
When it comes to complaints, time does not heal all wounds. In fact, the longer you take to remedy a complaint, the more likely it is that the customer will assume that you simply don’t care about their issue. By reaching out to your customer as soon as you get a complaint, you are demonstrating that you do indeed value their opinions. Also, it should go without saying, you should also have all the facts pertaining to the complaint at hand and committed to memory. Nothing irritates a mad customer more than having to endlessly explain the problem to multiple members of management. Ideally, a single level of contact needs to happen while taking care of your customer. Don’t put them on hold. Don’t transfer them to another manager. Fix their problem the first time, every time.
Learn From Your Mistakes
If you have received multiple complaints about the same issue, it’s time to fix the issue. As soon as you get a complaint about an employee with a bad attitude, that employee needs to be corrected (or possibly even terminated if it’s an ongoing issue). If your shipping service is constantly making late deliveries, research an alternative service. Listen to your customers. They will make it very clear as to what makes them happy or mad. Use that information to help you refine your services. When you fix your mistakes, avoid all things that would put you in danger of making the same mistakes again.
Monitor Your Online Reputation
There are literally thousands of online places where people can complain about your services. Managing complaints is just a fraction of Reputation Management and needs to be a permanent part of your online marketing strategy. Negative reviews left on Yelp and Topix can be easy to miss, if you’re not actively looking for them. While it is very difficult to get negative reviews removed from many of these services, it is well worth your time to find them. When you do, you can attempt to reach out to the customer and attempt to rectify their problem. When you do, it is very possible to fix their problem and then get them to update their review with something more positive.
Become Your Customer
Use your own services. Test your employees. Gauge your business efficiency. If you are an ecommerce business, make an order and take note of what bothers you about the process. Be critical during the whole process. Perform a mystery shop of your business when you are away. Take note of how you were treated on the phone. Did you get your questions answered to your satisfaction? Were you placed on hold? Were you greeted in a friendly way? These are all good ways to understand your current situation and allow you to make changes before you even get a complaint.
The most successful businesses learn from their mistakes and do everything required to improve their services and products. All complaints are a learning tool.
When Complaints Are A Good Thing
Actually, getting a complaint sucks. But, complaints can actually help your business… in a “tough love” kind of way. A complaint is a tool you can use to improve your business. Improving your business will improve your revenue.
Receiving The Complaint
When a complaint is levied against your business, drop what you are doing and take care of it immediately. The sooner that you can fix the problem, there is less of a chance of having a negative review of your business being left on Google, Facebook, or somewhere else. Be sure to be genuine with your response. Be compassionate with your response. Leave your hot headed emotions at the door. Take notes of the complaint on paper. This allows you to come back to it at a later time and not have to rely on your memory to fill in the blanks.
Remedy The Complaint
When it comes time to fix the customer’s issue, do what you can reasonably do to make everything right. Sure, you may have to refund a shipping fee if your customer received their product later then the promised delivery time and date. Maybe you’ll have to stay longer at the office to make sure your customer’s issue is 100% fixed. A little sacrifice from you will leave a lasting impression with your customers.
Learn From The Complaint
If your current business model is the underlying source of customer complaints, it may be time to update the way you do business. There is no such thing as the perfect business model and all of them can be updated from time to time, as needed. Do not get big headed when it comes to who you are and what your business is. The most successful businesses learn from their mistakes and do everything required to improve their services and products. All complaints are a learning tool.
While complaints are not very fun to deal with, it is essential to get into the mindset that allows for constructive criticism. Your business is not perfect – none are. This shouldn’t mean that you should stop striving to be perfect, however. The businesses that strive to be perfect are the ones that, over time, realize that customer complaints are a tool to be harnessed and exploited. Who knows? In the end, after you realize how good a complaint can be, and you act on it, your business may never get a complaint again.