Ask Colleen

Dear Colleen, We have a number of client’s who are complaining these days. The volume has become depressing because we never really had any complaints before. To be truthful we don’t know how to handle the complaints any thoughts? Stewart.

Hi Stewart, question-logo1

Its interesting to me that you report a sudden surge in complaints. Has anything changed in your product quality, service standards or delivery? You might want to check out the root cause of the problem at the same time as you learn how best to handle client’s. You should know that the American Management Association research into consumer behavior indicates that the average satisfied customer tells three people about his experience but the average dissatisfied customer gripes to eleven other people. Negative word-of-mouth advertising is a problem few businesses can afford because complaints tend to spread and expand like fishing stories. So… best to learn how to handle the complaints effectively!

Step one – Get on their side. “OOOH that’s terrible!” is a great starting point because it puts you on the same side of the issue with the customer and shows that you care about the complaint. Acknowledging the client’s right to be upset is the first step in calming them down – especially if they are visibly upset or angry.

Step two – Thank the client for sharing the information with you. Rather than saying “I’m sorry” say “Thank you for sharing this with me”. That will put the customer at ease and indicate to them that you emphasize and are about to take action.

Step three – Make a positive action statement. Example – “Now that I know, I can take action to get something done right away” The client doesn’t want sympathy or excuses, they want the problem solved.

Step four – Ask for suggestions. I like to use “Mr. Voice, what would be your ideal solution to (this problem)?” Most often the dissatisfied client will ask for something less than you would freely offer. Angry clients often react negatively to solutions that they feel they have not had any say in. 

Step five – Solve the issue. “Mr. Voice thanks again for bringing this to my attention. I appreciate the opportunity to make the situation right, by…. (what ever the client and you agreed would be the solution). We want to keep you as a valuable client and I am sorry you experienced this.

Step six – Send them a thank you note and small gift. I suggest something that is NOT branded but rather something that is more personal. Maybe a Starbucks card, a book or some chocolates. Thank them again for allowing you to resolve the issue for them and for their loyalty. This show of appreciation will ensure that their next purchase is with you.

Step seven – Follow up. Conduct a quick survey to make sure the issue is still solved to their satisfaction. Wait about 10 days and make the call. Be sure to conduct this call over the phone, an email will NOT cut it. This is your chance to connect with the customer again, in a more positive communication. You will build rapport, enhance trust and gain referrals.

Good luck! Colleen

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