In every business, errors will occasionally crop up. No company has yet attained complete perfection.
Late deliveries, picking errors, damages in transit, partial shipments, or even physical defects through faulty production or inspection are bound to occur from time to time.
When such things happen to one of your customers, you will get a complaint by phone, social, sms, email or even face-to-face on your next visit to the customer.
What will you do about it?
Do you regard the handling of complaints as routine, tedious and time-wasting? If you do, you will lose customers, sales, and goodwill for yourself and your firm.
Every complaint is a sales opportunity
Every complaint, like every sales objection, should be considered a sales opportunity. In many respects, handling complaints is similar to the best methods for meeting objections and turning them into selling points.
Expert handling can turn complaints into goodwill boosters and may lead to more business than ever. Here are a few simple techniques which should prove helpful to those new to handling complaints:
Win the customer, not the argument
No matter how angry or loud the customer may be in making their complaint, don’t deny, contradict, or ignore their remarks. Remain calm and sympathetic. Take the sting out of their complaint by agreeing with them on minor points and agreeing that they seem to have some reason to complain.
Don’t add fuel to the flame by blaming some department or individual at the office, factory or courier firm. Accept full responsibility for the error, whether the fault was yours or not. The customer will most likely respect you more for doing so.
Quietly and calmly, explain what did happen or what may have happened to cause the error and turn your attention to the best means of rectifying it. Taking a measured approach puts the customer at ease, adds to their feeling of importance, and frequently makes them feel so generous that they may waive part or all of any proffered adjustment.
Listen to the customer
It is not enough to agree that the customer has some basis for their complaint. It often helps if you let the customer vent their frustration with the situation in which they have found themselves. Listen calmly, quietly and sympathetically and encourage them to talk themselves out.
If the complaint is made in person, don’t smirk or grin at the issues they raise. Don’t answer any recriminations with counterclaims or excuses. Let the customer tell their whole story to the end.
Once they have exhausted their points, their anger has subsided, and after they have enjoyed telling you off, their animosity will be spent, and they will be prepared to be your friend again.
Give a little more than expected
When the complaint is justified and reasonable, and some form of compensation is required, make it a little bit more generous than the customer expects or demands, as that often turns many a complainer into a lifelong customer or even an influencer within their industry.
After the situation has calmed down, it is much easier to ask the customer, “What would you like us to do?” rather than telling them, “This is all I can do for you.”
In most cases, you’ll find the customer will ask for less than you were prepared to give and will be appreciative when you hand them that “something extra” that will hopefully wipe out all memory of the trouble that caused the complaint.
When the complaint involves unreasonable demands or is not justifiable (it may have been the customer’s fault), the partial agreement or the “yes, but” technique can be used.
After hearing the customer out thoroughly, you might say something like this:
- “I’m glad you brought this to my attention.”
- “Yes, I can see how this must have inconvenienced you.”
- “Thanks for telling me about this. I’m sorry that it happened.”
Now you are in an excellent strategic position to analyse the mistake calmly and to suggest one or several means for rectifying it – giving in partially, yet not acceding to demands beyond reason.
After making the offer, you can play on their sense of justice by asking, “That’s fair, isn’t it?” If you have handled the customer properly, you will find they are ready to agree to any fair and reasonable proposal.
Agree quickly and cheerfully
Next to listening patiently and sympathetically to the customer’s complaint, an essential element is to agree quickly and cheerfully. Any attempt at this juncture to hem and haw, scratch your head, fidget, or stall can only build up a new head of steam in the customer.
If you must give in, give in all the way, whole-heartedly and cheerfully; make them feel you’re glad to take care of their complaint. Such an attitude will not only win back their goodwill but will most likely make them sorry they complained.
Don’t ignore complaints – use them!
Following these simple techniques will enable you to make the most out of complaints by changing them into an added source of goodwill, volume, and profit.