Complaints are good news, we should be grateful to receive them

Statistically people who have had a bad experience tell 15 other people whereas with a good experience they tell just four.

That alone should be sufficient reason to be grateful when you receive a complaint. It gives any business that all important feedback on:

·how your product and service is actually performing, or not as the case may be
·how your competitors are performing and help you fill product or service gaps
·how well your staff are equipped to deal with complaint handling
·getting a further revenue opportunity
·securing a re-engaged customer who remains an ambassador for you

Creating a win-win situation
Some companies appear to take the view that a complainant is trying to fiddle something extra or get something for nothing. Whilst this maybe true of a very small percentage of people, the figures seem to indicate that the vast majority of complaints are genuine. Thus your company’s culture and attitude to complaints will set the scene for a positive or negative outcome.

The first thing you need in place is a process that channels the complaint efficiently and effectively to a mutually beneficial conclusion. The outcome has to be win-win. It requires that personnel handling complaints are thoroughly trained. This is not a job that you can casually rotate amongst a pool of people. In some cases you are talking about a substantial amount of revenue that is at risk of being lost forever.

Establishing empathy and gathering information

Most complainants are emotional to varying degrees. As soon as a complaint surfaces, deal with it fast. If it can be resolved on the spot, because you are empowered to do so, then do it. Whoever is dealing with the complainant must establish some rapport and empathy quickly, and that doesn’t mean putting the process before the person. Always tell the customer that you are there to resolve the problem as quickly as possible.

In the event that issues need to be checked out, tell the customer you are going to listen to the problem without interruption, save for information that you wish to clarify. Nothing irritates a customer more than constant interruptions. Ensure that your body language is congruent with spoken words.

Having got all the information, it is imperative that you summarise the points by saying something like “so that I have understood everything you have told me correctly, let me summarise”. If there are a lot of points, then ask “have I got this correct so far” after three or four and complete the rest of the points in the same manner.

Managing expectations – under promise and over deliver

The next stage is crucial. Give a specific deadline rather than “as soon as possible”. Say “I plan to talk to the various people whom you dealt with and will contact you again in 36 hours”. You now need to get back to the customer within the deadline set, or well within the deadline, say five or six hours if you are out to impress.

Under promise and over deliver, but do make sure the deadline set is a reasonable one for the complaint at hand and for you to check out the facts.

If the subsequent investigation shows a failure in product or service, offer profuse apologies. Do not get drawn into detailed explanations as the customer is only interested in resolving the problem.

Then detail what you are going to do to put it right. If possible, double whatever compensation is fair and reasonable. The effect on the customer will be emotionally positive. A problem with a meal? No charge and a voucher for a free meal next time they are in. Problem with a flight? Reduction on the next ticket or and an upgrade.

Do it with sincerity and compassion. Remember you are trying to keep a customer from going to the competition. Potential revenue lost can be recovered with a robust complaint management process. Complaint handling has to be nothing less than 100 per cent and customer focused. The customer is always right – isn’t he?

This article was contributed by Ray Bigger. Ray is the founder and managing director of Think8, a leading coaching, consulting and training company headquartered in Singapore and a director of Hospitality Strategies Asia Pacific. Ray has more than 25 years of sales, marketing, people and team development experience. Ray is a former English Premier League and Football League Referee.

Email: Ray@Think8.Net
Tel: (65) 6875-0104

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