Bad news travels fast and can kill your company’s reputation. Despite your best efforts and intentions, clients will have complaints and the way you handle them will determine if they remain a loyal customer or leave and spread bad word of mouth.
Client miscommunications occur all the time across all levels of a company – from front and back line operations, to marketing to customer support teams and beyond. And sometimes, the failure to communicate derives from the customer’s own inability to explain their problem clearly and their expectation for a satisfactory resolution.
In her article on Customerthink.com, Mary Murcott shares that even though most companies try to solve this through more staffing, more support materials, more handling channels, customers are still not satisfied and are enraged by the extra steps they have to take to still not have their problem resolved. In fact, only 14% of complaints are truly dealt with on the first call and most require 4.2 contacts to reach resolution (based on a recent Rage Study conducted by Dialog Direct, consulting firm CCMC and the Center for Services Leadership).
So if more is not the answer, what can you do to resolve customer complaints before rage sets in? Murcott shares 7 effective techniques to incorporate into your complaint resolution system:
- Sincerely and personally apologize. Further results from the Rage Study reveal that only 28% of customers receive an apology, but a whooping 75% of them want just that. If you are afraid apologizing opens you up to litigation, never fear. Murcott is not advising you to always accept blame. Rather, she is advising you deliver an empathetic apology; one that is blameless and eases the customer into a calmer state of mind.
She also notes that this type of apology cannot be learned by reading a “how to” guide, but should be carefully trained and practiced.
- Listen. 93% of customers want to be treated with dignity, but only 37% say they experience this treatment. Really listening on your end translates into dignified treatment. If the customer is experiencing a common complaint that you know how to solve, don’t cut them off and rush through the answer. Understand that your customer is frustrated and wants to express that frustration fully without interruption. Once they finish, confidently say, “I can help you with that,” which makes your customer feel confident their problem will be solved now.
- Make it easy to complain. A good way to anger customers is to have a long phone tree of prompts to navigate to get to the right person. Instead, use a single contact number that connects them to a triage team that can direct complaints to the proper person. Also make it known that you want to hear your customers’ complaints and make it easy for customers to find the number to call.