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The Do's and Don'ts of Responding to Customer Complaints

Mon, 12/10/2012 - 9:23am | by Guest Contributor

We've all heard the saying: You can't please everyone. Yet, when you're in the business of serving clients and customers, one of the things that can make you stand heads above the rest is if you do your best to keep them all happy. A really effective tool for making that happen is by professionally handling customer complaints. Before you get to answering phone calls and typing up emails, there are some do's and don'ts that you should definitely keep in mind when it comes to responding to customer issues.

So that you can be seen as a customer service favorite, we have enclosed three do's and three don'ts below:

Do listen. When a customer is calling to complain, this means that they already are not pleased with something about your company. They are only going to get more frustrated if they feel like you are not letting them tell their story or you are cutting them off in the middle of them stating their concerns. Just by being courteous enough to let them "have the floor" will automatically calm them down.

Don't debate. Whether it's by phone or email, there is something that Dr. Phil has asked his guests before that should definitely apply to handling customer issues: "Do you want to be happy or do you want to be right?" At the peak of a customer's frustration, there's a pretty good chance that they are not going to get all of the details down to a "t". What you have to keep in mind that it's not so much about correcting them as it is about keeping them around as a customer. Definitely choose your battles.

Do ask questions. There's a pretty big chance that to provide the best resolution you're going to need some further clarification. You can keep people from getting defensive by asking them questions: "Do you mind telling me what day it happened?" or "What were you expecting to receive with your order?" It makes them feel like you care about their feelings and you really are working towards a solution.

Don't be accusatory. One of the worst things that you can do while handling a customer complaint is to blame them for what they are complaining about: "Well Sir, that wouldn't have happened if you had done this" or "Ma'am, it's your fault because you did that." Even if technically you are right, by taking that approach, chances are that you're only going to frustrate them more. That's not the way to stop them from griping.

Do provide a couple of solutions. If you are inclined to check out a business blog or two on how to conduct customer service successfully, perhaps one of the things that you read is that it's a good idea to make sure that you offer more than one solution to the problem at hand. When you do this, it empowers the customer because rather than them continuing to focus on the complaint, they are now thinking about a few solutions that they have the power to choose from.

Don't be impatient. Some complaints can be handled in a matter of just a few minutes, while some (especially if they're via email) may take a couple of days or weeks. Patience is indeed a virtue and one that you must remember to use with your customers. Just remember that customers bring in revenue and all businesses need that in order to survive. So, waiting for them to be totally satisfied, ultimately, is worth the wait.

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