Be honest to turn a bad situation around
Many managers are ill equipped to deal with unsatisfied customers, while some ignore complaints altogether. However, if dealt with effectively, the result can be increased customer loyalty and a more-efficient operation. Tom Whitney gets lessons in problem resolution.
Even well-run businesses occasionally receive complaints. But, if handled in the right way, complaints allow managers to mend faults that were previously hidden. Moreover, satisfactory resolution can lead to increased loyalty from a previously disgruntled punter.
�It’s important to deal with a complaint quickly and get it right by ensuring that the customer is satisfied with the outcome.�
“Complaints should be viewed as a productive feedback process,” advises Mike Petrook of the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). “By managing customer complaints [effectively] you can increase customer loyalty and alert yourself to a problem experienced by other customers who simply took their custom elsewhere.
“Unless you give them what they want they will go elsewhere. Therefore, it’s important to deal with a complaint quickly and get it right by ensuring that the customer is satisfied with the outcome.”
Petrook recommends having a system in advance which allows you to deal with all complaints should they arise. “All employees need to understand how to react. For example, there should be a standard procedure for the length of time it takes to respond to a letter of complaint. It’s all about developing basic customer service standards.”
Establishing a standard complaints form can be a wise idea, because it allows you to assess the number of complaints you receive. On a regular basis (at least quarterly), a member of staff should analyse all complaints.
Your complaints procedure should cover all types of complaint – face to face, via letter, phone call or email.
�If appropriate, always offer the customer a solution, whether it is a repair, replacement, refund or money-off deal. �
Be courteous with customers; display a genuine determination to resolve the matter and record details of all complaints along with relevant materials (eg receipts or damaged goods). All information you gather must be factual – not based on emotional conjecture.
Conduct an investigation so that the complaint is assessed in detail and if there’s a fault, it can be remedied. Do not admit liability while the investigation is under way. And, if appropriate – always offer the customer a solution, whether it is a repair, replacement, refund or money-off deal.
“Once the complaint has been dealt with, follow it up with a phone call or letter of apology to ensure the customer is satisfied,” says Petrook. “Whoever received the initial complaint should be at the end of the process as well. This closes the circle and shows the complainant that they were taken seriously.”
You can get further advice and courses from the Centre for Management and Policy Studies and the Chartered Management Institute. Trading Standards provide information on consumer protection and fair trading.