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How to Handle Customer Complaints in 5 Easy Steps

Posted by Robert Beckerman
Robert Beckerman
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how-to-handle-customer-compaints-in-5-easy-stepsCustomer complaints are inevitable; it's what you do with the complaints that really make a difference. Your reputation as a company can be greatly affected by how you handle customer complaints. When you handle a complaint well, you can earn yourself a long-term loyal customer. On the other hand, if you handle it poorly, you could lose not only the complaining customer but also many more if the customer spreads the word about your sub-par customer service.

Turn customer complaints into opportunities for growth with the following 5 easy steps:

1. Listen Carefully

Even though it may be difficult, listen to everything the customer has to say. It's easy to get defensive when a customer complains about something you worked hard on, but train yourself to listen. The customer may have good points that you haven't yet considered, points that could go along way toward improving your products or services in the future. Regardless of what the customer says, make a point of listening without interruption.

2. Thank the Customer

Thank them for complaining? Yes. Train yourself to say, "Thank you for bringing this problem to my attention." You might forget in the heat of the moment what to say, so have this phrase ready, and really believe it. You can't resolve a problem if you are unaware of it.

3. Say You're Sorry

A sincerely apology smooths out the situation before you even start on a plan for resolving the problem. Don't pad your apology with excuses or justifications, just apologize for the inconvenience.

4. Work Out a Solution

Once you've listened and apologized, it's time for action. The best solution often comes from the customers, so ask your customers what they think would be a good solution. You'd be surprised that they often ask for less than you thought you'd need to give in order to rectify the situation. If they ask for more than you can offer, negotiate gently, refraining from pointing any fingers in their direction.

Once you've settled on a solution to the problem, take quick action. If you procrastinate, the customer will feel that you weren't sincere in wanting to fix the problem, and hard feelings and resentment will grow. When you fix the problem immediately, customers are impressed and usually overlook the original complaint. In fact, they may recommend your products or services because of your excellent products and services, even though they experienced a problem. Let their last contact with you always be positive.

5. Follow Up

After a few days, follow up on customer complaints to make sure everything was handled to the customers' satisfaction. This is especially important when you've had to delegate some of the responsibility of fixing the problem to other employees. All of your work in fixing the problem could be wasted if the customer feels that you're just trying to forget about the problem.

When you follow up, go back to the first three steps. Apologize again for the initial problem, thank the customers for bringing it to your attention, and ask if everything is fixed now. Listen carefully and note any feedback that can help you to make improvements in the future. This kind of service goes a long way.

Case Study

A replacement windows company installed seven new windows in a home, but three of the windows had a manufacturer defect with the windows' flashing. The installer mentioned the problem to the customer, and the customer immediately called the windows company's office. The president of the company got on the phone and listened to the customer talk about the problem. He thanked her for quickly alerting them to the problem, apologized, and had replacement parts installed the following day. He personally visited the home to inspect the windows and ask if all was well. This customer gave a very complimentary review of the company's customer service, which the company posted on their website.

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Topics: Great Customer Service, Customer Complaints, Customer Development & Retention