Don’t want to be *that* guy—Five Steps of Complaint Management

I know that you would rather shuffle self- consciously near the service counter and try to pretend you have nothing to do with that guy.

That guy is standing there outlining, somewhat passionately, just how disappointed he is that, as a customer, his expectations have not been met. It’s almost a reflex that most of us don’t want to be part of the conflict in any way. Many would just take their business elsewhere; it’s bad enough to be near that guy, imagine being him!

Some companies might, somewhat rudely, label that guy a complainer. Complaining, however, is merely a description of what he is doing. He should be viewed by the business as Santa Claus bringing the gift of opportunity.

Rather than walk away, quietly taking his money with him, he is providing critical marketing intelligence and providing a golden opportunity to turn some very negative word-of-mouth publicity into a clear positive message.

If you’ve misinterpreted their concerns, empathise!

We all have stories of companies who have done a bad job of “Service Recovery”. I recently became that guy when a local company failed to do what they promised to do for a member of my family. After sending a written complaint, the manager of the company called and asked to meet with me and what I experienced was service recovery done the right way.

A complaint is a gift to the business and every manager should embrace the opportunities they provide.

Complaints Management

The way that this manager handled the meeting provides an excellent template of how to deal with a customer’s complaint in a way that, in most cases, will lead to customer satisfaction and excellent word-of-mouth endorsement. The five steps that he used were:

1. Thank the customer for making the complaint

It’s likely that the customer will feel awkward. It is easy to say, “Thank you for telling us about this problem, most people would have, just left but you’ve given us the chance to fix this problem, not only for you but for other customers.” Being thanked for making a complaint is often surprising for the customer but helps them feel more open to discuss the problem.

2. Outline your understanding of the problem

While simple, this lets the customer know that you have heard their complaint and allows them to correct you if you’ve misinterpreted their concerns; empathise! Show them that you understand the impact on the customer.

3. Take personal responsibility for fixing the problem

This is a tough one to do. While you might not feel that you personally are at fault, the customer will often need someone to be accountable for fixing the problem. A simple approach is to say, “I could have made sure that my staff were aware that this approach may caused you and I didn’t do that well enough on this?occasion?- I take personal responsibility for fixing this problem”

4. Negotiating an agreed approach to fixing the problem

In most cases, this could be simple. A refund, a next free visit, an apology. It is also vital that you outline how to ensure that the problem does not happen again. During this step, it is essential that you gain an acceptance from the customer that the solution is agreed upon and that it will resolve their concerns.

5. Do what you promised to do to fix the problem!

Whether you actually deliver on your promise to fix the problem or not the customer will?tell others. By delivering on the promise, you get to choose positive word-of-mouth endorsement and much higher levels of customer satisfaction. I’ll leave it to your imagination what stories will be told if you don’t deliver.

Customer service engineering may still be, in the larger part, more art than science. It is important to bear in mind that “individual results may vary” but taking the?five steps to customer service recovery very much increases the odds that you’ll turn that?guy into one of your company’s best resources.

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