Every small business has to deal with customer complaints at some point. Successful customer engagement helps you turn those complaints into opportunities for solidifying relationships with your customers and learning ways to improve your customers’ experiences. These three tips help you handle customer complaints in a healthy, productive way that fosters long-term associations.
Follow Up on All Complaints
You might be tempted to wash your hands of a customer after you receive a particularly painful complaint, but this serves as a vital moment in your relationship. Follow up with customers to make sure they’re happy with how your business handles their complaints, and ask for feedback on how you can improve your products and customer service. Turning toward a dissatisfied customer instead of away can help salvage any negative reviews the customer might want to spread on social media, and it assists you in making needed improvements to avoid receiving the same complaint in the future.
Respond to the Customer’s Emotion
Customers who complain often express deeply felt emotions. The customer may feel betrayed by promises your business has made or misled by communications with your sales staff. Take the time to let the customer express these emotions before you try to fix the problem. Sometimes, the real problem has nothing to do with your products or services, but with the way your employees made the customer feel. By hearing the customer out, you ensure customers perceive you as an ally, and you also learn about potentially significant problems that need addressing in your own customer-facing operations, whether by instituting new procedures or establishing new training for employees.
Create Proactive Workflow for Handling Customer Complaints
Take the proactive steps of listening, responding, and fixing the problem when dealing with customer complaints, but think about how your customer service might improve if you create workflow procedures employees must follow each time a customer complains. Start by rewarding customer-facing employees for reporting complaints, something they might otherwise have the temptation to hide or downplay. Record the complaints, and make sure the people in a position to fix it maintain awareness going forward. Follow up with all dissatisfied customers, letting them know about the changes you’ve made and ensuring they’re happy with your solution to their particular complaints. Be sure to follow up again by providing these customers with special perks, such as discount codes for future purchases. This lets you track those customers to see if you keep them in your sales loop.
This type of proactive system works well at Marriott, where studies show 94% of guests return to the hotel for future stays when something bad happened during their previous stays, but Marriott fixed it. The number of guests intending to return in this circumstance was even higher than the 89% who reported they had a good stay. As Bill Gates has commented, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” Taking steps toward turning customer complaints into opportunities helps your business create happy customers and build brand loyalty.