Handling Customer Complaints – Procedures Guide

Whether it’s over the phone or face to face even the most successful businesses will be handling a customer complaint now and again. If you follow proper procedures and make sure staff get training on complaint handling procedures, negative effects can be minimised.

an employee dealing with a customer complaint

How to Handle a Customer Complaint

If a customer has a genuine complaint, it’s important to adopt the right mindset whilst dealing with the negative feedback.

You should bear in mind two things:

Firstly, you can never ‘win’ as such. It’s important to accept that, your main aim is to minimise the negative effects of having an unhappy customer. You should be trying to resolve the situation to reach the most acceptable resolution for both parties.

The second thing to remember, is that any customer complaints should never be seen as a personal attack. Some customers can verbally lash out but remember it’s the company they’ve got the grievance with.

If you keep both of those thoughts in mind, it will help a lot. It will help you deal with complaints from customers more positively. This will feed into how the customer will see your company in the future.


Customer Complaint Handling Procedures – Some Tips

If a customer feels like their complaint has been heard, and a resolution has been offered, it is often possible to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

The following steps should form part of your complaint handling procedures to help this process.

You might also value a greater understanding of telephone etiquette to help you offer better customer service.


Listen to the Problem

Listening to a customer’s complaint without interruption is the first thing you should be prepared to do.

Listening carefully will let you assess their complaint fully. If you interrupt halfway through their complaint, they’re likely to get even more agitated than they already are.

You might find that they are initially very irritated. That means it might be difficult to get to the root of the problem. However interrupting them will not be helpful.

Even if you’ve heard the same complaint many times, don’t butt in with statements like, “I know what you’re about to say and…..”.

Let the customer have their voice, and complaint, heard.


Recap the Issue

Once they’ve finished making their complaint, you need to recap the issue to let them know that you’ve understood the complaint.

This might seem unnecessary but you need to make sure that what you’ve heard accurately reflects the issue. Once that’s agreed, you should then apologise to the customer. And, if you’ve heard incorrectly, you need to ask the customer to re-iterate the complaint again and then apologise.


The Apology

When you apologise, it’s important that you don’t pass the buck and don’t make excuses. You are the representative of the company, so it’s important to accept responsibility.

An example might be where an important delivery has turned up 2 days late.

Don’t say things like, “I’m sorry Mr Smith but our order processing team are a bit short-staffed at the moment as several of them are on holiday and that’s why there was a delay.”

If you give that as a response, Mr Smith is likely to get even more irked. Your response should be along the lines of “I do apologise Mr Smith. That shouldn’t have happened.

As you didn’t receive your goods within the time specified, I’m going to do all I can to help you.”

In other words, you have accepted liability, you’ve apologised and you’ve stated that you are going to try to come up with a resolution. These are the 3 things, the customer wants to hear, not a load of waffle and lame excuses.


Offering a Resolution to the Customer Complaint

The important thing here is to realise that you are going to suffer some kind of loss. However, the result you’ll be hoping for should be one which will please the customer.

If you can satisfy them, they are likely to come back to you as a customer again in future.

It may be that you’ll have to offer financial compensation or some kind of discount against future purchases if you want to keep hold of them as a customer.

It’s also worth remembering that the resolution needs to be able to compensate for the loss properly. Otherwise, the customer may end up getting even angrier because they feel your ‘offer’ was derogatory.

There will absolutely be some customers who will try to push you into getting more out of the situation than it merits. You don’t need to give in to that kind of pressure, but make sure your resolution is adequate compensation for the inconvenience caused.


Some Customers Will Remain Unhappy

You need to accept that you’re not going to win them all. Some customers will be so annoyed that they’ve already decided never to use your company again. In these cases, it wouldn’t matter what compensation you offered them.

But the key point is to do the right thing in the majority of cases. This will mean that you retain your company’s reputation and the person as a customer.

Customers who complain can often help a company improve their performance by identifying weak areas in the organisation which you can then rectify.

It’s useful to remember this, as the worst scenario is that there are come customers who have been unhappy with your product or service and who simply couldn’t be bothered to seek a resolution, and have just taken their custom elsewhere.

Therefore, in dealing with complaining customers, you get the opportunity to find out what’s going wrong in the company. You also get the chance to enhance your reputation by providing a satisfactory resolution which can often improve a customer’s perception of your company.

That’s the outcome you should always be aiming to achieve, and it’s only possible if you follow the correct etiquette for dealing with complaints.

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