7 Steps for Handling Customer Complaints
How to Deal With an Angry Customer
In today's services oriented industries, it is extremely important for employees to demonstrate a consistently high level of customer satisfaction skills. An important element of achieving this goal is the ability for every employee to handle and resolve customer complaints efficiently and effectively. Addressing client satisfaction issues and providing exemplary customer service is critical in every business environment from local restaurants and small companies to retail outlets and large corporations with extended call centers, customer service agents, and support staff.
A customer complaint often provides an opportunity for a company to learn about deficiencies in their product, process, or service delivery—and to take steps towards improvement. Handling consumer complaints properly and effectively, either in person, on the phone, or via email, often results in a happy client who will use your products or services again. And a satisfied customer is also likely to share their positive experience with others.
Likewise, a dissatisfied customer is highly likely to share their negative experience with friends, colleagues, and business associates. And in today's environment of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a seemingly endless variety of online forums and blogs for sharing common complaints, a barrage of negative public criticism can quickly impact a company's image and bottom line.
Here are seven tips to help you increase your skills for improving customer service.
What Is the Most Important Step Towards Handling Customer Complaints?
Listen to your customer!
Step 1. Allow the Customer to Speak and Listen to Their Complaints
After asking the customer to explain the nature of their complaint, do not interrupt them, which can increase their anger further, and lead to additional conflict. Allowing the customer to fully describe the reasons for their dissatisfaction is key to deflating and ultimately resolving their issues.
Even if the person is irate and yelling, do not take their comments personally. Try to remember that the customer is angry at the situation—not at you personally—and you are there to help address their concerns and to resolve the problem.
If angry a customer is not clearly describing their problem, try asking open-ended questions to draw out more usable information. Asking qualifying questions can have a calming effect as the irate person begins to understand that you are truly interested in their problem—and in trying to find a solution.
Step 2. Ask If You Can Repeat the Complaints Using Your Own Words
Asking for permission is a subtle but important step towards gaining the customer's trust in your willingness to address their concerns, and helps to ensure that they are now listening to you. Do not include their terms of frustration in your response, but summarize the list of problems including any specific details.
If you are not completely sure that you fully understand the customer's complaints, try asking probing questions that invite the customer to expand on the explanation of their issue. Be careful not to sound like you are challenging the customer or refuting the information that they have given you already; the goal is to gain more information so that you can better help the customer to resolve the problem.
Step 3. Speak Calmly and Clearly
When dealing with a customer over the phone, it is especially important to demonstrate your capability and professionalism, and your voice and demeanor are your best tools. Do not exhibit signs of uncertainty or nervousness. Even if the person is very irate, responding in a cool and collected manner is essential to defusing the situation.
Step 4. Look at the Situation From the Customer's Perspective
Put yourself in your customer's position, and try to empathize with their situation and their frustrations. Then, respond appropriately to their concerns. In many situations, an apology is appropriate on behalf of your company—even if you did not have any personal involvement in the issue.
Step 5. Take Responsibility for the Situation
An angry customer is looking to you for a resolution to their issues, and it is important to show them that you can assist them quickly and effectively. Unless it is absolutely unavoidable, do not infuriate the client further by transferring the call to another person in a different department.
If a call must be transferred, stay on the call until the other party answers, introduce the caller, and transition the situation. Do not just blindly transfer an angry caller—if the call is forwarded to a voicemail box or gets disconnected, the customer will be even more irate when they call back.
Customer Loyalty is Priceless!
Step 6. Take Action
Find out from the customer what they feel is an appropriate resolution to their problem. If their request is reasonable and within your area of authority, then provide a prompt solution for the customer. If the request is unreasonable, calmly explain your company's position and offer an alternative solution. In many instances, a credit, refund, or discount on a future purchase may satisfactorily resolve the issue for both parties.
If the request is reasonable but beyond your level of authority to approve, explain the approval process to the customer including the expected timeframe for a response. Be sure to gather the customer's contact information and their preferred method of communication (telephone number or email).
Step 7. Follow Up!
After reaching a resolution, follow up afterward with the customer to ensure that the issue was resolved to their satisfaction. This small step is essential to verify that the issue is truly resolved, and often makes a huge difference in how the client feels about how their issue was addressed. This small step is worth the extra effort, and can often lead to repeat business and a loyal customer who will recommend your business to others.
Is the Customer Always Right?
Three Bonus Tips
A Satisfied Customer Will Tell Their Friends. A Dissatisfied Client Will Tell Everyone!
Just for Fun – and to Make a Point
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2011 Anthony Altorenna