How to Deal with Customer Complaints

customer complaintsImage by Ryan Forsythe via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

As simple as it sounds, the first and most important step to take when dealing with customer complaints is to be quiet and listen. Customers often feel the need to vent their frustrations with a product or service before even considering a proactive solution. While listening to your customer explain their problem, try to understand their emotional state. Is your customer angry? Confused? Tired? Overwhelmed? By knowing how your customer feels, you will know exactly how to respond.

Another key communication tip when dealing with a customer complaint involves asking open-ended questions. This technique will help ease an unhappy attitude while gathering information about the problem, which may help you arrive at the appropriate solution. Rather than getting defensive, simply need listen to the customer, accept the feedback, thank them, and then decide what to do. Below, I’ve written down my five best tips to help you deal with customer complaints.

1. Don’t Take It Personal

Being the customer with a complaint is extremely frustrating–but being the customer service rep getting yelled at is no delight either, especially when you didn’t cause the problem. The customer may talk down to you, be rude, and even call you names, but don’t take it personal. Remember that they purchased something from the company you represent, so remain calm, cool, and collected. Listen to their problem without interrupting and then help.

Another thing to keep in mind is that you should respond accusations and offensive complaints in a way that will turn the argument around. By saying things to your customers like, “You did it wrong. That’s why you’re having a problem,” will only escalate the issue. Apologize for the problem and let the customer know you’ll do everything you can to help fix it.

2. Ditch the Formalities

The last thing unsatisfied customers want to hear is to listen to you recite your company’s return policy. If your return policy is 90 days, and you get a call from a customer at day 100, try looking into alternative options rather than sending them away. Your company should know that bending the rules from time to time will cost less than losing the customer or an unsatisfied customer spreading the word that you were unhelpful.

3. Avoid Overcompensating

When you have to deal with customer complaints, you often encounter customers demanding inappropriate freebies. However, the main priority is resolving the problem with the product or service they bought. The word FAIR usually does the trick when looking for an appropriate solution. Ask them, “What do you think is fair?” That word seems to make people think sensibly and reasonably. If you ask the customer to propose a “fair and reasonable” solution, chances are it will consist of less than what you would have thought to offer.

Once you find an appropriate solution, extra benefits or compensation are helpful when making sure the customer will return.

4. Watch for Customer Complaints on the Web

In today’s digital age, many customers use online forums to complain about a product or service. From websites like RipoffReport.com and Scam.com to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, customers are now able to tell their stories to other worldwide.

Customer service reps as well as those in the Web development department should monitor the Internet for any complaints. By responding to customers online, it shows the public that you’re listening. Create a course of action for employees to respond to online complaints, even if that action is to submit all online complaints to one person who responds to them all.

5. Responding in Writing

When writing a letter or email, use the same basic rule as if you were talking to a customer over the phone or in person. Begin by thanking the customer for bringing the problem to your attention. Be polite ask questions that will help you figure out what went wrong. Their answer will help you figure out how to resolve the complaint and how to prevent it from happening again.

A rule of thumb for written correspondence when dealing with a customer compliant is to follow up with verbal communication. Provide the best ways for the customer to get in touch with you. The more information you provide, the better. Customers will see that your company takes customer complaints serious and will appreciate your efforts.

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