You can turn a customer complaint into a triple win
No business enjoys receiving a customer complaint. If the customer contacts you directly rather than bad-mouthing your business on social media, be grateful. Believe it or not, the complaint is an opportunity to create a Triple Win.
Let’s say you requested a service while you are taking an extended overseas break. You don’t want the full service, you just want a quick mini-clean, or mini-pool service, or mini-garden cleanup a couple of times in your absence.
When you return, you discover that the company has chosen, without checking with you, that they will do full services while you are away, and have charged you accordingly.
It doesn’t seem right, and the bill is a bit of a shock. You call and query the services and the invoices. This is the pivotal point. Either your relationship with the company will be strengthened or broken. If they handle it well and sort out the problem, it is just one step in building a good relationship. If they are defensive and curt, it can take 30 seconds to break down a customer’s trust that has been built over months or even years. Suddenly the customer feels as they are the problem. Not a good outcome.
To make good after a receiving a complaint, and to not only create a win-win but a Triple Win, follow these steps:
1. Listen to the complaint without interrupting.
There is nothing as powerful as just listening. Really hearing the customer. Put aside your defensiveness, and start by thanking the customer for calling. Tell the customer you really want to hear what they want to tell you. At the end of their story say: ‘Thanks again for letting us know. Is there anything else you need to say before we decide on which action to take?’ (This is a technique I teach in all leadership training – it is powerful to ask the question ‘tell me more’ as it delves deeper than the polite exchange). Even this first step of listening well is a triple win. The customer is being heard, you will feel good because you are not being defensive, and the business will improve by really understanding what happened.
2. Acknowledge the customer’s feelings
Let the customer know that you hear their feelings. Or that they are angry. Or that they have been waiting a long time and have run out of patience. Say that if you were the customer you would feel like that too.
3. Clarify the issue
Check with the customer that you have understood the complaint. Summarise what they have said, and check you are correct.
4. Ask what can be done to repair it
It is always best if you start by asking the customer what he or she would like to see happen to resolve the issue. Perhaps let the customer know what is available as recompense, or as a way of putting things right. Decide together what is going to be done and check that this satisfies the customer.
5. Take full responsibility to fix it
If your business has a complaints policy that limits what you can do to set things straight, make sure you don’t promise something you can’t offer. Do what you can immediately, and pass on anything that is out of your hands to the right person. Let the customer know you have done that. Make sure the customer knows that you are their go-to person.
You may need to do something more. Send a gift voucher. Send a hand-written apology card. Go above and beyond the call of duty, and aim to create a better relationship with your customer than ever before and create an unexpected win for the customer.
6. Check that you are ok
You’ve created a win for your client. That’s great, but what about you? You need to feel good, and know you have helped. Pat yourself on the back, and if it was tough and you need support, chat to someone. Get leftover feelings off your chest. A win for you.
7. Improve the business
Your final win is one for the business. How can you turn the fix into something that works for your business and future customers, or the community? What can be done to improve the service and how can you go above and beyond for your next customers? A policy, a procedure, a module of training? Create a win for the business.
Turning a bad situation into a good one takes patience, maturity and care. It also takes a little bit of innovation. You can approach every customer engagement as an opportunity to create wins for you, for the customer and for the business (and even the community if possible).
Think Triple Win. It’s not hard, but it is so worthwhile.