Handling Customer Complaints

Many of us would agree that death and taxes are two things we will have to deal with. But if you are in a position of dealing with customers on a regular basis there is a third – you will have complaints, plain and simple. And as much as you take pride in your job and abilities, you will make a mistake sometime and it will cause a complaint. Understanding that you will make a mistake is a good start but it is what you do about it that the customer is concerned with. So to prevent you from drowning in the Sargasso Sea of niggling complaints, that is to say, to prevent you from being ineffective or concentrating on unimportant details when dealing with complaints, here are some tips…

1. Listen and Understand
Understand first that the customer is complaining because they have a problem, they didn’t contact you just to   complain about something. They may be angry or condescending or both. Listen to them and do your best not to interrupt. If you need to, ask questions to get a clear picture of the problem. Once you think you know the problem explain it back to them to get confirmation you understand properly.

2. Stay positive, Take Responsibility, Empathize
A complaining or angry customer who is communicating with a positive person will begin to realize they are dealing with someone willing to help them out and the problem will be taken care of. Maintaining a positive attitude also helps you respond positively and properly. Apologizing for any error(s) and letting the customer know you understand their dilemma will help prove to the customer you are responsible and capable.

3. Don’t Take it Personally
I must admit, this was always the most difficult thing for me. My immediate reaction was to defend the fort or dwell on it long after it was over. Recognize the customer did not call you to tell you about your mistake. They called because they have a problem. It is because of the problem the customer is angry. And sometimes folks can just be cranky for no good reason. You should focus on the problem, take it seriously and not personally. Trying to resolve a complaint with a chip on your shoulder is next to impossible.

4. Assure the Customer and Take Action
Assure the customer you can get the complaint resolved. Explain to the customer what you would like to do and get confirmation from them what you would like to do is acceptable. Once you have taken the action contact the customer again to let them know you have acted quickly and things are in place to provide a solution. If the customer was still stewing about it, you want to keep the stew time to a minimum.

So don’t abandon ship in the Sargasso Sea of complaints, stay on board and steer the ship toward a resolution using the tips above. You will be left with a customer who is confident they are dealing with a person and a company capable of handling things. And in many cases they next thing you will need to handle with this once complaining customer, is another order.

Kirk Edwards
Application Engineer

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