Few aspects of running a business can be more frustrating — or more expected — than customer complaints. It’s impossible for even the most successful companies to please every customer every time. Knowing how to handle customer complaints effectively and professionally can improve brand reputation and turn a disgruntled customer around.
Listen and acknowledge the customer
It sounds basic, but a surprising number of businesses care more about defending their actions than listening to the customer. Remember that the vast majority of people who have a problem with your company won’t bother complaining to you. They’ll just complain to everyone else. Every customer who takes the time to complain directly to you should be thanked for the opportunity to make the situation right. This means listening carefully to everything the customer has to say about the experience and offering an apology for their discontent.
If you encounter a complaint online, reach out and publicly acknowledge the complaint online as well. Let the person know how disappointed you are that they were unhappy and ask for the opportunity to discuss the incident with them privately.
Discover the source of their frustration
If a customer complains that they can’t find something in your store, you might assume they’re asking you to reorganize your shelves. However, they might really be upset that no staff members noticed their frustration and stepped in to help before they started complaining.
Find out what the company can do to help
Sometimes all the customer really wants is an apology or information about how you’ll work to improve so you don’t make the same mistake again. In these situations, it’s easy to exceed customer expectations by offering coupons or a similar incentive in addition to meeting their request.
If the customer’s not sure how they’d like to be compensated or if they have demands you can’t reasonably meet, you should have a policy in place to help alleviate the customer’s concerns. Make a point of explaining what your company’s doing to improve in the area of the complaint, and thank them for their feedback.
Handle the publicity of social media
If a complaint originates on social media, take the solution back to social media once the situation’s resolved. Everything in social media is public, so once a customer posts a complaint, it can be seen by countless potential customers. Bringing the solution back to social media will help those who saw the original complaint see how well you did addressing it.
If someone complains to you through a blog post, ask them to either update the post so new readers know the situation was resolved or remove it altogether. If the complaint was made on Facebook or a similar platform, return to the original post and make an update yourself, such as, "I’m so glad we were able to work together to resolve this problem. We look forward to doing more business with you in the future."
Customer complaints are an aspect of business no one enjoys but everyone has to know how to manage. Keeping the above guidelines in mind should help you successfully navigate this terrain, strengthen your company’s brand, and improve your reputation.