5 strategies for dealing with customer complaints

Dealing with customer complaints is something most small business owners dread. Over the years, I learned many techniques for working through these types of situations while keeping customers as happy as possible. When I worked as a small business consultant, I shared these tips with my clients and found them to work across all types of business.
 
Standardize
 
Most small business owners will find a majority of their customer complaints fall into certain types of categories. These will be different by industry. Once you have been able to discern similar issues, come up with standard ways of dealing with them. Teach these set ways to your employees and make sure they are followed. One example might be overnighting a replacement product to customers with lost shipments.
 
Don't choose sides
 
Many owners will automatically believe the customer is right in a disagreement with a worker. Some owners will automatically side with their employees during a complaint. I do not take sides until I have heard the story from both perspectives. Customers are going to have issues with your workers. Sometimes these issues are caused by a simple misunderstanding while sometimes someone is in the wrong.
 
Don't wait
 
Customer complaints should take precedence over everything. One common issue people have with big box chains is that it can take days or weeks before a customer issues is resolved. Hours on the phone or countless emails should not be needed to resolve an issue. I separate myself from competition in my field, and in general, by taking care of issues when they appear. I do not wait until tomorrow, or after the next meeting or after the next cup of coffee.
 
Empower the workers
 

Many believe it is the responsibility of a small business owner to deal with all customer complaints directly. I find it best to empower workers and give them the ability to take care of most types of customer complaints. Let the workers be the first line of defense so the owner only needs to step in during the most complicated cases. Work with your employees so they can understand when they can take care of issues, and when customer complaints need to be moved up the ladder.
 
Ask for feedback
 
Once you have dealt with the customer complaint, find out if the issue was resolved to your customer's liking. A simple email or a standardized survey with a few questions could go a long way. If I have to deal with a customer complaint, I want to make sure my customer is satisfied. I want to make sure I do not have to take extra steps to ensure continued patronage.
 
If the feedback is positive, that customer complaint is completely taken care of. If there is still an issue, it should be addressed right away. Maybe there is something a little extra I can do for my client. Maybe there is another step I need to take to ensure he or she is completely happy. I want to know as soon as possible before losing a valued customer.

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