Recently I was on the receiving end of some terrible customer service. After not getting any response to my emails, text messages and phone calls for more than a week, I was beginning to feel like a stalker when I finally got a call back. However, I didn’t get the apology (and the answer) I expected, but got shouted at instead!
It made me think about companies and their customer service – what customer service do you give, and how do you deal with complaints in your business?
Mistakes happen; things go wrong all the time and that in itself is not the problem. How you deal with it is what makes all the difference.
Research shows that in fact a customer who had a problem and finds it’s solved well, is happier than the customer who never had any problem at all (although I’m not suggesting you go and create problems for that reason!). People talk, and bad customer service is all over Twitter before you know it, whereas a grateful customer can give you a great boost on social media.
I believe that when you’ve made a mistake, the complaints handling procedure is very simple:
1. Show understanding
First of all you show understanding. People want to be understood, so a simple ‘I understand that this is very inconvenient/a problem/very annoying/a big disappointment for you’ will immediately put them at ease and take away some of their anger. Empathise and genuinely show that you understand how annoying this is for them.
2. Apologise and take responsibility
Always apologise for the mistake and take responsibility as a company. So what if your supplier let you down – that’s not your customer’s problem. Acknowledge that they have been let down by your company but don’t blame any individuals – the customer doesn’t need to know that it was Suzy in packing who forgot to add the extra gadgets. Say something along the lines of ‘I’m very sorry that we caused you this inconvenience and I’m going to do my best to put it right.’ Feel free to take responsibility when you have personally made the mistake, but never blame anyone else.
3. Put it right
Whatever you got wrong, put it right. Don’t be difficult about it, go out of your way to get it to them quickly and don’t charge them for anything extra (delivery charges etc). And whatever you do, don’t hide behind policies or computer systems. Even if you have a policy or a computer system that can’t do whatever it is you need to do, say that you’ll do your best regardless. The phrase ‘Our computer system can’t deal with this sort of thing normally, but let me see what I can do’ is a lot better than ‘Computer says no’.
4. Give them something extra
When you’ve put the mistake right, give them a little extra to make up for the inconvenience. Whether it’s a box of chocolates, a handwritten card or a bunch of flowers, doing something extra will turn this originally unhappy customer into a lifelong satisfied one.
5. Follow up
Call them a week later and ask if everything is now to their satisfaction. This is also a perfect opportunity to sell them something else, as by now they should be fully happy again.
When you empower your staff to follow this procedure, you can be sure that you don’t lose any customers to mistakes made in your business.