Careful management of customer complaints can limit the loss of goodwill associated with customers bad mouthing their organization. This may be of particular concern in the online business environment, where one person’s frustration can be communicated immediately around the world.
By establishing a tone of respect in your communications you will show consideration for your customers, increase your efficiency, and lay the foundation for an ongoing business relationship. Ignoring your customers or treating them poorly will hurt your company.
Creating a policy for handling complaints
Start by instituting a procedure for handling complaints. The purpose of the procedure should be both to provide dissatisfied customers with a means of resolving their issues and to allow the company to improve its performance or correct mistakes. Having a clear and consistent process will let you keep track of problems and address concerns quickly and efficiently.
All complaints should be taken seriously and addressed immediately and thoroughly. Failure to address complaints can lead to bad word of mouth, which can have a significant detrimental effect on your business.
In addition, for every complaint you receive, there may be 20 or 30 other customers who have had the same experience. Addressing the problem and implementing a solution can prevent a repetition of the same mistakes.
Keep a record of all of the complaints you receive. Categorize each for resolution and record-keeping. Make sure the collective date is provided to managers and executives for purposes of both market research and evaluation of internal efficiency and effectiveness. Convey that your organization takes complaints seriously and that you are working to investigate and resolve the issue as quickly as possible. The tone of the letter is important — the customer is not in the wrong for making the complaint.
Keep on file copies of all documents related to the complaint. If the matter escalates into a more formal dispute (e.g., arbitration, lawsuit, etc.), you’ll want to have evidence that you attempted to resolve the matter reasonably and rapidly.
Establishing channels of communication
Make sure customers know how and where to make complaints. The harder it is to provide feedback to your company, the less apparent it is that you're receptive to their concerns. This may compound the problem that the customer wanted to resolve.
Make it as easy as possible for your customer to navigate the complaint process and give consideration to their needs and frustrations. Passing the customer from one representative to another, having the complaint handled by multiple individuals, and forcing them to contact you at your convenience may make the resolution experience worse than the initial problem.
The best way to respond
Even if you disagree or dispute the claims of the customer, acknowledge his or her complaint and frustration. Most people who experience bad service or receive flawed products do not bother to file a complaint. If someone did take the time to complain, they probably have strong feelings and need some validation.
Follow-up is essential, both internally and externally. Make sure that the issues underlying the complaint have been resolved and that the customer is satisfied with the outcome of the investigation. It’s good to respond immediately to concerns, but failure to complete the promised review can dissipate any goodwill that you worked to build.
In your response, plan to briefly describe the general nature of the customer’s complaint. Try to be as thorough as possible. If the customer disagrees with your restatement of the problem, indicate how you should be contacted to correct this understanding.
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