6 of the best tips to help improve your effective complaint handling
If you run a business, you will no doubt have received a customer complaint. Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, someone will have cause to complain about the service they have received. How you deal with those complaints could help stop them escalating to a bad Google review. As a small or medium sized business, word of mouth will be one of your main sources of work. Therefore, effective complaint handling should be a priority to ensure your business is a success.
In this article we provide you with our 6 top tips for effective complaint handling.
No one likes to receive a complaint about the services they have provided. It’s hard not to be defensive when someone is criticising our work, rather than recognising any shortcomings that may have occurred. As a small business, the damage a bad review could have on your business is significant. You rely on your reputation to succeed.
How can you manage complaints effectively in order to maintain your business’s excellent reputation?
1. Take a deep breath
Before you respond to the complaint, take a deep breath. Firing off an instant reply without properly considering the matter could lead to you being defensive. This will in turn make the customer feel like they are not being heard, who is then likely to take the complaint to social media or provide a negative Google review.
You therefore want to deal with the complaint internally to avoid it becoming public. The best way to do that is to provide a measured and reasoned response; that will not happen if you reply instantly. Acknowledge the complaint and confirm you will be looking into the matter over a specified period of time.
2. Investigate the matter
This may sound obvious but try to look at it from the customer’s perspective. What is it that they are complaining about? Is that complaint justified or is there an explanation for the actions? Was there any wrongdoing on the part of you or your staff?
If you were not present, talk to staff about what happened. Maybe review CCTV footage if the complaint is serious enough to warrant it. Ring the customer and get more information from them so they feel like they have had their say. Collate all the information and prepare your response.
3. Provide a measured response
Set out the facts and then state why you agree or disagree with the complaint – it might be you agree with some elements but not others. Make sure you deal with all the main elements of the complaint, as ignoring key parts will again make the customer feel like they are not being heard.
If the customer responds, consider whether you need to provide a follow up or investigate further. Depending on how serious the complaint is, maybe ask a more senior manager to review the information and respond to the complaint. Make sure that the person reviewing the information does so thoroughly, rather than simply repeating the original response.
4. Consider apologising
Whether or not you choose to apologise will depend on the complaint. If you have agreed with some elements of the complaint, was this as a result of an error on your part and should you be apologising for this?
If you do offer an apology, consider whether you should also offer the customer a discount or refund. While sorry is sometimes hard to say, it can often quickly and effectively neutralises the customer’s upset and stop the complaint going further.
5. Train staff
Your staff are likely to be a customer’s first port of call when complaining. It is therefore important to train your staff to recognise complaints, know how to deal with them and know when to escalate to a manager. This can be coupled with dealing with difficult customers, so issues can be nipped in the bud before a complaint is even made.
In order to control how complaints are handled, ensure that all complaints are referred to you or an appointed manager prior to a response being given.
6. Respond to reviews
Unfortunately, you can’t win them all, and sometimes no matter how good your complaint handling is, the customer will still feel the need to write a negative review about the experience they received. Whether you respond will depend on the complaint. Whilst people do read reviews, if the majority are excellent with one bad review, customers are likely to see it for what it is: a serial complainer.
If the customer has taken the complaint straight to social media or Google reviews, without giving you a chance to respond, then you might want to consider speaking to them directly first. Be polite and discuss the matter with them; you might be able to persuade them to remove or reconsider their review.
Alternatively, you could try a more humorous approach, like these TripAdvisor responses from owners who were not going to take the complaints lying down.
If the content of the review is inaccurate or untrue you can consider legal action for defamation. However, be very careful taking this course as it can lead to further, much more significant ‘bad press’ for the business as was the case with a dental practice who threatened to sue a patient for leaving a bad review. Whilst today’s news is no longer tomorrow’s chip paper, simply turning the other cheek is sometimes the best advice.
Please note that the information contained in this article was correct at the time of writing. There may have been updates to the law since the article was written which may affect the information and advice given therein.