Once upon a time in a very different business world, the customer was the important element in your business. They mattered; we cared about them and that helped us win more business.
Unfortunately that doesn't seem to have lived happily ever after.
I recently read a great piece about how the most important person to any business is the staff, if you take care of your staff your staff will take care of the customer. So the customer is still at the pivotal point.
Some recent customer service experiences have shown how far detached some companies are from these beliefs now. Here are some top tips from me on how to deal with complaints:
1. Have a complaints procedure and stick to it
If a customer feels strongly enough to make a complaint there is every need to act on that fast. As we know, we live in an age of business humiliation with the likes of long lasting reviews, ratings and tweets there to help to destroy our reputation.
Having a procedure ready, as a just in case of course, means you can react in a professional, swift and caring manner. It must be swift!!!!! Swift is the key, it means you care about your customer enough to drop everything and be there for them. Delay and it can make them feel like they just don't matter to you and who, is going to stay for that.
2. Allow the customer to speak to someone
Forms are everywhere, automation is key to being efficient but when it gets to this stage we need a person to tell about the issues we are experiencing, we need to know we have been heard and that someone is going to do all they can to rectify it.
Not having a complaints department doesn't mean you don't have complaints, it means you don't care about the feedback you get and you have no intention of doing anything about it.
3. Have a telephone number that dials direct to a real person
It just adds to the frustration when your customer has to wait for three minutes in a queue. I don't know about you but I wouldn't want to be in a call centre picking up the phone to someone who had a complaint and find out they had been waiting for so long.
4. Empower your staff to deal with it and don't undermine them
Your staff should know their stuff, and if they do they will feel they are able to troubleshoot for a customer. If the first contact a customer makes during the complaints process can help, it spells out quality, customer service and excellence.
The worst thing that can happen as you go up the chain with your complaint is that the line manager completely undermines what the previous staff have said and this creates distrust in the first person, better to look like you are offering more and a stronger service.
5. Do not ignore it..especially if it is public
Worse than ignoring is deleting but ignoring is what I most often see.
Pretending a complaint doesn't exist is not the way. It might make you feel better but the customer will get more and more public about it.
Wherever the complaint is, deal with it, deal with it fast and take it offline away from public view but not before making it clear to the public you are on it and are there to support the customer.
6. Take pride in your ability to resolve a complaint
If you can take pride in your ability to help a customer, to listen, to work out a solution and to come back with it. It cannot only save a relationship it can go on to create new ones.
Everywhere there are problems, it is human nature so don't hide from it deal with it head on and your customer will know you are worth your weight in gold as someone who will resolve issues for them with pride.
As unlikely as it feels, that you can turn that complaint around it can become an opportunity to do even better than before.