Franchises should keep these steps in mind when dealing with unhappy consumers.
Most employees hate complaints. They don’t like having to deal with customers who call or visit their store or office with a complaint. What they don’t understand is that a complaint is actually a positive thing. You can’t always meet every customer’s expectations.
The ones who don’t complain and simply never return are the ones to worry about. When a customer complains, it usually means they care enough that they would like to use your business again if their immediate concern can be resolved.
Here are 6 golden rules for handling customer service complaints.
Offer a sincere apology and thanks
An apology demonstrates to the customer that you are empathetic to their concern and are willing to try and help resolve whatever complaint they have. It doesn’t matter whether it’s you or someone else at fault or if nobody is to blame - simply express concern and apologize for what they have experienced. You’re a representative of the company you work for and that’s all the customer sees at that moment in time, so be sure to express thanks they have given you the opportunity to make things right.
Ask and then listen
This is perhaps the single most misunderstood part of the whole complaint resolution process. Too often people don’t really listen - they simply wait for their turn to speak. Prove that your company is different from the rest and actually listen. Start by asking the simple question, “Would you please tell me exactly what the concern is and then I will see if I can do something about it?”
Once you have done this, don’t do anything else. Regardless of whether it’s a face-to-face business or a phone call, close your mouth, open your ears and listen to everything the customer has to say. They may be angry and need to vent but remember that it’s not personal. Ask for permission to make notes if that will help, but don’t do anything else except focus solely on the customer and their issue.
Once they have told you the problem, ask any questions you may have to ensure you fully understand the problem. Get them to repeat any details if necessary and make notes that will help you understand the problem fully.
Ask what outcome they expect as a result of their complaint
Always ask for the solution they are looking for. Some customers have specific demands related to their complaint; others won’t know exactly what they want but they know that something has to be done. Some simply want to vent. Once you have this information, advise them if it’s something you can do for them right now or if they will have to wait. Often customers are looking for much less than you might be willing to offer - so ask first.
Verify your proposed solution will address their needs
Share your proposed solution and check with the customer to ensure it will address their needs. Do not move on to resolve a situation until the customer has agreed. If there is no verification, return to th second or third step.
Take ownership of resolving the problem
Take responsibility for resolving the customer’s problem. If you’re in a retail shop or office, they may have to sit and wait while you work to find a resolution. If it’s a phone complaint, ask if you can call them back once you have a solution for them so they don’t have to wait on the phone for an undetermined amount of time. Also, let them know when you will call them back - then honor that commitment. This may require you speak to another staff member if they were responsible or have more details. You may need to seek help from a manager if you don’t have the answers and don’t know how to find them yourself. Generally there are company guidelines for solving complaints and so you should be able to follow standard procedures.
Get back to the customer
Regardless of what you discover as a result of your investigation, get back to the customer in the time you promised. The resolution may be that a product is repaired or replaced. A service may have to be changed or perhaps a discount or refund is required. No matter what the situation is, it’s a vital part of the process that you communicate with the customer and tell them what will be done.
From my perspective, there are times when a problem is beyond anyone’s scope to rectify. You may not be to blame, but the customer may still see it that way. The key is that you respond and give them whatever information you can.
Customer service complaints give you the opportunity to rectify problems and ensure they don’t happen again. They can be learning experiences, and, if handled properly, not only will you retain the customer’s loyalty, but a great recovery offers the opportunity to build a more loyal customer than one you simply satisfied.
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