When confronted by a customer with a complaint, all businesses really want to do is make them go away. However, this is a step in the wrong direction. The complainer isn’t just a troublemaker; they are a person who can help you understand how to improve your company. Therefore, it’s in your best interest to deal with them, not just get rid of them.
Most unhappy customers don’t complain; they just go away. Instead of letting you know why they’re unhappy, they’re just not going to come back and they may even warn other customers away.
Whereas most complainers have legitimate concerns, often indicating systematic problems in your business. Maybe your product actually isn’t performing properly or your employees aren’t providing the quality of service a customer should expect.
It’s easy to dismiss complainers. After all, sooner or later, every business will have some customers who are just impossible to please. No matter what you do, they’re never going to be happy. Often, these customers have misunderstood the nature of your products or services and want you to change completely to accommodate them. That’s not realistic.
Even unrealistic complainers need to be listened to and acknowledged. In fact, unhappy customers can be turned into life-long loyal customers if you recognise their complaints for what they really are: a chance to improve your business. To do this, business owners need to:
Listen: Train yourself and your staff to not get defensive when someone complains, but to start actively listening, ask questions. You can’t solve a problem unless you take the time to understand it.
Apologise: Your customer has had a bad experience. You are sorry, even if you don’t think you’re entirely to blame. Some of the most powerful words in a businessperson’s language are “I’m sorry.”
Learn: One complaining customer likely represents the feelings of dozens of customers who don’t complain. Explore whether this one complaint is emblematic of bigger problems.
Respond: Genuinely try to address the issues a complaining customer raises. First, do what you can to solve the specific individual’s’ situation. Next, look at whether you need to make changes to how you run your company or make your product to reduce the likelihood of other unhappy customers.
Empower: You’re not always going to be the person an unhappy person turns to. Give front-line sales and service people the authority to solve problems. Don’t make customers jump through hoops to get satisfaction. Empower employees to solve problems themselves.