Dealing with Customer Complaints
November 10, 2019
Image from https://gonzobanker.com/2015/10/5-steps-to-master-customer-complaints
Whether you’re a retail associate at a coffee shop, an account manager at a tech company, or the big boss at a consulting firm, we all have to deal with unhappy or angry customers. It’s just part of the job, and the higher up we move in our positions, the bigger the customers get and the more there is at stake if they have a negative experience.
Learning to deal with customer complaints is an essential skill in business. Soothing a tense or awkward situation when emotions are running high is hard. The solution is almost never to blame somebody else; nor is it to blame yourself. Both might engender further anger from the customer and you might lose credibility you’ve built up over time.
The key is listening, apologizing if appropriate, and letting the customer know they’re heard and that you intend to help.
Here are three communication strategies to get that done.
A customer that is complaining is asking to be heard. This is the time to put your emotions aside and let them get their gripe out to their satisfaction. Use active listening and body language to deescalate and show you care: make empathetic eye contact, don’t smirk or smile, nod occasionally to show that you’re listening, and breathe calmly to help the customer calm down too.
When the customer is done with their complaint, confirm back to them the problem they’re dealing with (e.g., “If I understand your concern correctly…”) and immediately apologize for the experience if your company is truly at fault.
Communicate your intent to find a solution
If a customer is unhappy, you need to show you care by making their problem your problem and finding a solution. If possible, attempt to resolve the situation quickly, as that will make the customer’s feelings of anger or frustration subside. If no resolution is quickly available, be flexible and consider other ways you could provide support or help.
What’s important here is communicating your intent to take ownership of the issue and to help. Let the customer know what options you both have to fix the situation according to your company guidelines. Ask the customer if they understand how you can help them or that there’s nothing you can do beyond what you’ve discussed.
Offer appreciation or an apology
At either the beginning or the end of the conversation (or both), you want to apologize for the customer’s bad experience and thank them for being honest about their complaints or concerns. Tell them you appreciate the opportunity to work out the problem for them and that you highly value the feedback as that will improve the customer experience moving forward.
For many customers, a sincere sorry and thank you goes a long way even if you ultimately aren’t able to fix the problem for them.