Sooner or later, every company is bound to get complaints about a defective product, poor service, billing issues, or customer dissatisfaction of some sort. Consumer complaints are the downside of running a business. However, in most cases, you can successfully win over an unhappy customer by engaging in actions that resolve the complaint.
Consumer complaints are expressions of annoyance by customers about anything involving your company, such as a defective product or unsatisfactory customer service. It's up to you to successfully alleviate the problem by listening to the consumer so you can resolve the complaint to their satisfaction.
The way you respond to consumer complaints determines whether your company receives good or poor consumer ratings. Your response also influences whether the customer might call the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about your company.
Your brand and customer loyalty
A professional response by your company also factors heavily into whether you keep customers or lose their business. After all, one of your main business goals should be to keep your company's goodwill and your brand in good shape.
It's easy to lose customer loyalty by providing poor customer service. Not everyone will complain to your customer service department, but customers won't hesitate to spread bad reviews online or on social media. Nothing hurts customer loyalty as much as a combination of substandard products and poor customer service.
To maintain a positive reputation for your brand and nurture loyalty, it's important to respond quickly to customer complaints and offer positive solutions. One way to garner positive reviews about your brand is to make sure customers can easily access customer support. If such support is difficult to contact during the day or is unavailable at night online or by phone, your brand and your customer loyalty will most likely suffer.
Consumers say their customer experience is one of the main reasons they purchase from a company again. Great customer service often leads to consumers sharing their experience online and in person in the same way they share bad reviews. Using social media platforms and online rating companies can help you successfully build your brand and increase customer loyalty, so strive to earn stellar reviews by creating delighted customers.
Resolving customer complaints
When you receive a valid complaint, your goal is the complete resolution to the customer's satisfaction. There are many ways to do this, but the following steps best help to defuse the situation—and possibly even turn the tables in your favor:
1. Remember that it's not personal. Handling customer complaints requires complete detachment from any personal feelings you have about the criticism or the customer's negative emotions. Their grievance isn't with you, so distance yourself from the complaint.
2. Listen to what the customer says. Listen without interrupting and ask for more details when the customer finishes explaining why they are upset.
3. Acknowledge what the customer says and feels. It's helpful to repeat what the customer says so they know you're listening and taking their complaint seriously. Telling the customer that you understand they're frustrated with the situation lets them know you plan to fix the problem.
4. Understand what the customer wants. Carefully interpret whether the customer wants to get out of a contract, get a refund, receive a replacement, or some other resolution.
5. Offer a solution. If you run a hotel and a guest complains that management was rude and the ongoing construction too noisy, you may want to give the guest a coupon for a free night's stay so that the guest feels heard and is willing to give your hotel another try. Coupons, discounts, replacements, and refunds go a long way toward customer satisfaction.
6. Apologize to the customer. If you provided less-than-stellar goods or service, apologize—sometimes that's all the consumer wants. Other times, the consumer wants both a refund and an apology, but don't underestimate the power of an apology alone. Your customer service may get rave reviews if you acknowledge that mistakes were made but you sought to rectify them.
7. Send a follow-up letter. You can send a letter or make a phone call a few days later—or even the following day—to ensure that the customer approves of the resolution. Your letter can include an acknowledgement of the customer's complaint. Let the customer know you're looking into the problem and are being proactive to avoid the same situation in the future.
Consumer complaints can actually improve your brand and customer loyalty by requiring you to reexamine your products and customer service. When viewed this way, complaints can serve as useful business lessons that can help you improve your business, protect your brand, and improve your reputation.