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Friday, 31 August 2012 10:00

Tips for Effectively Handling Customer Complaints - Part 2

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In Part 1 of "Tips for Effectively Handling Customer Complaints," Kaufman provided five suggestions on how service providers can use customer complaints to their advantage. Within this second half, he takes this topic further by introducing more tips for dealing with customer complaints and how to maximize the benefit of them giving you and your business a second chance.

Explain the Company's Desire to Improve
When you understand what the customer values, show them things your company does that helps you perform well in that area.

For example, if a customer is complaining because a package was delivered a day late. You would say, "We understand that quick, on-time delivery is important to our customers." To which they might respond by saying, "But you failed in my case! My package was a day late." Then, you should calmly reply by showing that you are sincere about your commitment to do well in the areas the customer values, such as shipping. At the very least, you can tell them that you are going to make sure everyone in the company hears about their story – so this does not happen again. When you express the company's desire to improve, you start on the path to rebuilding its credibility with the customer.


Educate Your Customer
Part of hearing the customer out is answering any questions they ask about their specific situation. Provide additional, useful information. If they ask a question that you cannot answer or do not know the answer to, tell them you will find out the answer and get back to them … then actually follow through. Contact the customer with the answers they requested. Even if they might not have requested an update about their situation, get back in touch with them with one anyway. This presents you with an additional opportunity to say through your actions, "We care about you. We value your business."

Contain the Problem
When a customer is upset and their complaint begins to escalate, to the point where other customers can hear, it is best to try to contain the problem. Guide them to one of the offices, the lounge, or even a treatment room – any room that can be used to isolate customers from other customers who are enjoying their day at the spa. Additionally, this also isolates the unhappy client from staff members who may not be as well-prepared as the staff member who brought the client to the room to handle the situation. That is how you contain a problem.

Show the customer you care about them, even if you feel the company did everything right, by making them an offer. Companies worry that they will get taken advantage of if they give vouchers, discounts or freebies as part of their service recovery, but the reality is that almost never happens. Offer the customer something and then explain that you are doing so "As a gesture of goodwill" or "As a token of our appreciation." A good example of a company that takes recovery seriously is Sears. The company now has a "blue ribbon team" which is specially educated and empowered to handle recoveries. Once an issue goes to them, anything they recommend is what gets done. They have full support from the top down. Sears does this because the company understands that a successfully recovered customer can become your most loyal advocate and ally.

Give Serial Complainers An Out
Some people just love to complain. These kinds of customers complain, not so that they can become satisfied, but because they are never satisfied. With serial complainers, you must limit your liability and isolate them from your brand. A good example of how to deal with a serial complainer is from a leading luxury airline which had a serial complainer that loved caviar. The customer loved it so much that on every flight he would eat all of the caviar the flight crew had to offer and then he would complain that they did not have enough. As a test, the airline even stocked extra caviar on one of his flights. He ate it all again, and complained … again. In the end, his constant complaints led the airline to send him a letter. Essentially it read, "Thank you for traveling with us for so many years. It appears that despite our best efforts we have not been able to satisfy you. Out of our concern for your happiness we have provided you here with the contact information for three other airlines that serve your route of travel. However, should you choose to travel with us again, and enjoy the high level of service we are able to provide, we will be delighted to welcome you on board with us again." By providing the letter, they airline gave the complaint-prone passenger an out. On the rare occasions when you deal with someone who complains all the time, that is the best thing to do.

In summary, your customers are not your enemy. It is sometimes hard to remember that when you are involved in a tense complaint situation. But they are essential to your business and you really are both on the same side. Your customer wants the product or service you provide, and you want to give it to them. When you treat complaints as opportunities to build loyalty, you can create customers for life and uplift your entire company in the process.

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