June 7, 2023 — Despite your best efforts, mistakes sometimes happen when you own or manage a business, and customers complain. But that’s where phenomenal customer service comes in. It’s what small businesses are famous for. Get into the small business holiday spirit with some tips to help resolve customer complaints.
Start with a Strategy
Your response to customer service issues starts long before a customer complains. It begins with your overall customer service strategy. What experience do you want them to have? For example, think about how customers get their questions answered. Do they go to the customer service desk or should staff approach them? For online businesses, do they email you with questions or will you have a chat feature on your website? Another issue is your return policy. Do you have a “no questions asked” policy or will you limit returns? The answers to those questions set the foundation for the experience your customers will have (and the issues you may face).
Listen First, Then Acknowledge
Customers want to know someone is listening when they complain. That’s why it’s important to listen first, then acknowledge their concerns. Train staff to use phrases like, “I can see that you are upset because your order didn’t arrive on time,” or “The item wasn’t what you expected, I understand it’s a hassle to return it now.” It shows customers that you were listening and care about them and the difficulty they are facing. It also gives you the opportunity to clarify your understanding of the problem so you take the right action to address it. Don’t forget to check your nonverbal communication too. How you say it is just as important as what you say.
Respond with Timely Action
“What are you going to do about it?” That’s the question customers want answered. Start by apologizing for the mistake or misunderstanding. Don’t blame a supplier or another individual. A simple, “I’m sorry about that,” can go a long way to reestablish trust. Then look for a way to take immediate action, or find someone who can. It might be as simple as an exchange/refund or to schedule a service call. Empower your employees to solve the problem by giving them a set of options and guidelines on how to use them. The choices might include a free upgrade, discount on the customer’s next purchase, or store credit.
Don’t Stop with the Solution
Just because you solve the customer’s immediate problem doesn’t mean all is well. The problem may not stay solved. So follow-up to be sure. Some businesses use online customer surveys to gauge their satisfaction. A code is generated on the sales receipt and the customer is directed to a website to complete the survey. That gives you the opportunity to match-up the transaction with the feedback so you can follow-up to resolve any remaining complaints. Other businesses take a more personal approach with a simple phone call or a personal note.
The flurry of holiday commerce can fray even the most seasoned businesses. That’s why it’s helpful to review your customer service policies before it starts. Help your staff prepare for customer complaints with these service tips.