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“...God created the world in six days. On the seventh day, he rested. On the eighth day, he started getting complaints. And it hasn't stopped since” – James Scott Bell
Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines complaint as “a reason for not being satisfied; a statement that somebody makes saying that they are not satisfied.” One of the traits common to humankind is the proclivity to complain. Citizens complain about the economy or governmental policies. Government officials complain about the apathy of citizens. A spouse complains to his partner about one thing or the other. Some customers and clients complain about poor quality of products or services, prices of goods and the like. Handling customer complaints effectively is essential for keeping them happy and loyal to your brand or company.
Now, how do you handle complaints as a marketing professional or a customer service representative, especially where the complainant is fuming with anger? How do you handle the complaints of a disgruntled client without making matters worse than they already are? Well, I will attempt to walk you through the route to effectively handle customer complaints.
Don’t be sentimental
As much as practicable, do not allow your emotions get in the way. Understand that you are not the problem as it were; don`t take customer complaints personal. That way, you will not find yourself involved in heated verbal exchanges with disgruntled clients. Stay cool, calm and collected, and remain conscious of the fact that you are literally representing your company. You obviously do not want to soil the hard earned reputation of the company you represent. Simply hear the client out.
Don`t be defensive
The natural response to an outburst from a client as a result of dissatisfaction with a product or service offered is to sound defensive. You would want to prove the client wrong and you right as it were; you really would want to put the client in his or her place but this wouldn`t help matters with most clients. You only end up making the situation murky.
Thank Your Client
You well know that grapevine is considered to be one of the most viable means of landing new clients. What your clients say to persons they interact with about your company; its products or services will either draw potential clients to you or literally pull them away from you. It clearly isn`t in the best interest of your company to have dissatisfied client move out of you company`s premises only to speak ill of the company. You should therefore be grateful that a client approached you with a complaint since it affords you the opportunity to address their concerns.
A customer`s complaint also provides you with the much needed client-feedback to perhaps address certain organizational challenges that might have escaped your attention. My point is this: You have every reason to thank your client, so do so. This helps break the ice; diffusing tensions and calming nerves.
Acknowledge & offer support
It is prudent to listen to what your disgruntled client has to say and to express gratitude for sharing their concerns with you. However, it will better serve your cause if you go further to acknowledge what they say and offer support. Their complaints can range from the conduct of a staff to a defect with a product or service. Whatever their rants may be about, do acknowledge it, and where possible arrange to have concerns remedied within the shortest possible time; in the case of a defective product or wrong product purchased, you can arrange for a suitable replacement, if it is within your means to do so.
Don`t be rigid
Where no remedy is available to meet the displeased client`s expectations, then give some thought to how else you can help them; explore viable alternatives. I have witnessed a situation where a telecommunication company in Ghana decided to give free airtime to their customers as a way of assuaging their rage for an apparent disruption in their service over a prolonged period. It was their way of making it up to their disgruntled clients. Nichole Leinbach-Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded & the Independent Retailer Conference suggests that it should be possible to make it a company policy to have $10 gift cards to a local coffee shop on hand to give to upset customers (or even customers who may be having a bad day). This calls for creativity, ingenuity and flexibility.
When a complaint comes to your desk, your aim should go beyond proffering a viable solution (which obviously is very crucial) to concluding your conversation with the client on a note of genuine apology and sincere appreciation; apologize for the inconvenience (s) caused and say thank you. For many clients, such a move goes a long way and even for clients who may still be dissatisfied, it still leaves an impression on them.
After offering an unqualified apology, showing sincere appreciation and giving displeased clients the support they were hopefully looking for, consider other alternatives of offering support to clients who complain. Nichole Leinbach-Reyhle suggests that one viable way to do this is to have upper management follow up with these customers 24 to 48 hours after they have expressed their complaint. This gives clients the impression that you are genuinely concerned about their complaints and you are perhaps taking steps to address such concerns.
Once the complaint has been heard and duly addressed, put it behind you and focus on the work at hand. Of cause, other customer complaints will come up over time; indeed, hardly any business is run without one customer or the other feeling dissatisfied. However, if you will commit to following through with these suggestions as and when complaints come up and adjust them to your peculiar work contexts, you will be contributing significantly to building a strong customer care culture in your organization, with its rippling effect of enhancing customer loyalty and business profitability.
Written by Daniel Dela Dunoo