As You Prepare Yourself for an Impending Rant, Consider These Three Tips to Let Customers Know You're Listening
As You Prepare Yourself for an Impending Rant, Consider These Three Tips to Let Customers Know You're Listening

How can you take a customer's complaint and turn it into something constructive?

Maybe there’s an unsatisfied customer heading your way to complain. Maybe they’ve aired their grievances in a tersely-worded email. Or maybe they turned to Yelp to let other customers know that they were unhappy with your service. Complaints from customers happen—and they’ll continue to happen. But how do you turn it into something constructive?

Listening to customers can be challenging. They often don’t know the reason why things work the way they do, and they may complain about things you can’t control. That’s why, listening is truly an art, and doing it well means understanding what the problem is and what the outcomes need to be. As you prepare yourself for an impending rant, consider these three tips to let the customer know that you’re truly listening.

Listen to Empathize

Empathy means really putting yourself into the customer’s shoes and doing your best to understand his or her perspective. This can be challenging because you’re often seeing this experience from the other end of the spectrum, but it’s crucial to keep an open mind and let go of preconceived ideas. If a customer complains about the way he or she has been overbilled, for example, it’s easy to think that it was a matter of the customer simply filling out the billing form wrong. But before you decide to place the blame, take a step back. Don’t try to solve the problem or place fault on why it happened. Instead, empathize. This allows you to sincerely say, “I’m sure that was frustrating” or “I’m really sorry you had to spend your time dealing with this” in an honest and personable way. Always give them the benefit of the doubt.

Listen to Understand

When you avoid blaming the unhappy customer, it’s easier to listen for what really went wrong. Maybe he or she did fill out a form incorrectly—so what does that tell you about the form itself? If it’s online, why aren’t there tips and error messages clearly outlining how to do it correctly? What if it happened because of some misfire on the backend? Use this as a moment to reassess the systems you have in place. Reevaluate how things work and if processes can be simplified. If one customer experienced an issue, chances are others have as well.

Listen to Take Action

A single complaint may be indicative of a larger issue, so don’t let it go ignored. Once you identify an area that requires further attention, it’s time to outline a plan on how to fix it. Take a minute after a customer conversation to really think about what to do next. Is it a quick fix? Who’s in charge of taking action? If it’s a larger issue, is there a place to gather more feedback for further review? When you put all of these pieces together, you’ll reveal the bigger picture. It’ll become clear what steps need to be taken.