In a marketplace where millions of transactions take place daily, some errors and misunderstandings are bound to happen, but this statistic is small consolation to the business operator who receives a complaint. There are always two sides to every story.
Whatever the problem or its cause, the manner in which you as the owner or representative of your company respond to your customer is important and worth your careful consideration. The following suggestions should help you reach a satisfactory conclusion for your customer, and in most cases, for your company:
- When you receive your customer's complaint, put yourself in their shoes and try to see the problem as though it were your own.
- Disregard outrageous claims or expressions of frustration and stick to the central issue(s).
- Acknowledge your customer's distress and apologize for it (even if it's not your fault).
- Respond quickly and as briefly as you can.
- Offer a settlement, a compromise, a goodwill gesture, or some options. Don't just dig in your heels, claiming that truth is on your side and that the other party deserves no consideration.
Defusing an Angry Customer
Some of the customers you deal with will, at some point, display some degree of anger. You will need to defuse the anger so you can focus on the customer's real problems and needs. Here are some rules for defusing anger:
- Show empathy.
- Remain calm and respectful.
- Acknowledge the anger.
- Apologize without accepting blame.
- Agree with the person who is angry.
- Debate the facts.
- Ask "why" questions.
- Jump to hasty conclusions.
Providing Good Feedback to the Complaining Customer
After a customer has vented his or her frustration, you will want to provide a good response directed at the customer's problem. Good feedback is:
- Descriptive (not judgmental).
- Specific to the customer's problems.
- Well timed.
- Clear and easily understood.
- Suggestive of actions the customer may take.
- Doesn't make commitments that can't be kept.
In general, follow the "Golden Rule" of business: treat the customer as you would like to be treated yourself. It works in customer-business relations and it's what the BBB is all about: self-regulation.