Handling Customer Complaints Gracefully, and Effectively

Keeping customers completely satisfied all the time is something almost every company strives for, but there are times when the best laid plans go wrong. It’s how you handle the feedback, that can make or break your equation with a client. With a more public objection on open forums or social media, it becomes imperative that you handle the situation with grace and finesse.

A false step could give your brand a beating and cost you prospective customers also. The good news is that with a little foresight and a proper process for dealing with negative customer feedback, objections, or complaints, you will be able to take control of the situation and emerge stronger.

We have compiled 7 ways that will aid you in handling customer complaints gracefully and effectively:

1. Start Talking and Break the Silence

Often a customer who raises an objection will air their issues and then not follow it up with any further communication. You will need to train your team to ‘break the silence’. Initiate a conversation, reach out to the customer and try and understand what their issues are.

2. Genuinely Care about the Feedback

It isn’t easy to hear a customer complaint. However, you should view it is a chance to have a conversation with them about what went wrong. Don’t look at an objection as just another problem to be dealt with. It is much easier to sound genuine if you really do care about what they have to say. If you do so, you are likely to see they are more open to telling you why they feel the way they do, what exactly their issues are, and how things went south. You may end up learning far more that way, than if you simply responded with a cookie-cutter placative!

Make a Timely Response

An already irate customer will hardly appreciate tardiness when it comes to hearing back from your firm. Even if the objection cannot be fully addressed or their problem can’t be resolved immediately, be sure to have someone call or message them whenever they raised a complaint, by letting them know that you have noted their objection. Treat a customer objection as a high priority item and be sure it gets the attention it deserves so you can respond quickly. Good response times can keep a situation in check, while a delayed response could be the last straw for an already troubled client.

Don’t be Afraid to Apologize

Whether the objection is valid or isn’t, you may need to apologize for the inconvenience the customer has faced, even if it wasn’t caused by a failure on the part of the company. This is not the same as admitting responsibility. An apology is a courtesy you extend to a customer, a sign that you empathize with their situation, and will therefore likely to do your best to help them.

Take the Conversation Private

With numerous companies receiving customer complaints via corporate websites, blogs, social media and online forums – some of these feedback is aired very publicly. While your first response could be online, you should take further discussions offline and try to have an interpersonal communication. This will prevent a service recovery effort from turning into a public spat with bystanders jumping into the fray or being influenced by what they see.

Scrutinize Whether this is a Symptom of a Larger Problem

During the process of interacting with customers, you may uncover issues that others might have held back from divulging. These problems could tip the others over the edge without warning if a competitor addresses the shortcomings in your product or service with improvements in theirs. You also run the risk of these unspoken objections swinging the vote against your business, should they encounter any other issues in the future.

Focus on the Future

The best tactic after you have resolved the customer’s issue or addressed their objection, is to adopt a forward looking approach. Bring your team together to look at ways to fix the problem that caused the objection to be raised. Could you change your process to prevent a recurrence? Are there early warning signs that you missed which could be built into your CRM or that you could train your team to watch out for? It is crucial that you work on short-term fixes as well as medium to long term strategic changes that might need to be made if the issue demands it. At the very least, do what it takes and put measures in place and ensure there is no future opportunity for customers to raise complaints again.

Remember, customer complaints don’t have to be the end of the road for your relationship with customers. If you handle situations well, you are quite likely to be able to retain them and may even earn their respect. Considering data that says you are likely to spend 5 times as much money to acquire a new customer, than to retain an old one – it is well worth the effort.

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