No business, no matter how good it is, can ever keep all of its customers happy all the time. It’s just not possible. However, how businesses deal with complaints can go a long way in determining their overall reputation.
To begin with, it’s always best to promptly address complaints as soon as they are made. Whenever possible, you want to deal with them on a business-to-consumer level. If you ignore them or don’t give them the attention they deserve, then they could be lodged more formally, which can negatively impact your business and its reputation. If people file their complaints with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which they can now do online, or with the Better Business Bureau or other organizations, you could be opening your business up to formal investigations and trouble, so it’s always best to try and stop things from progressing to that point.
And, of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What that means is that, whenever possible, you should strive to prevent complaints or consumer unhappiness from happening in the first place. Go the extra mile to be there for your clients, to act in accordance with the law, and to treat everyone fairly. Even then, that won’t stop all complaints- people are always going to find something to be unhappy about. However, it should definitely lessen the number of complaints you have to deal with.
When you do run into complaints, try these strategies early on:
l Listen: The most important thing you can do when a customer has something to complain about is to hear him out! It might be hard to do, especially when the consumer is making untrue or misinformed claims, but if you listen and try to be understanding, you can keep things from escalating. Be on the consumer’s side, even when it’s hard, and remember that their anger is not directed at you as an individual but rather at something that has happened that the customer has perceived as unfair.
l Be Solution-Oriented: There’s a good chance that when a consumer calls you to complain, he wants to do just that: complain! And, while you should listen to the complaints until the consumer is done, keep a solution-oriented attitude. Instead of just accepting the complaint and apologizing, always work to think of a solution and a way to work the problem out so everyone is happy. Even if you have to do something that has a slight negative effect on your business in the short-term, such as giving a refund, it will have a positive effect on your business in the long-term.
l Apologize: Above, we mentioned that you shouldn’t just apologize, but you should apologize..even if you feel it’s all a misunderstanding or that your business hasn’t done anything wrong. Swallowing your pride and saying “sorry” can go a long way toward smoothing things over with a consumer.
It’s hard to be a business-owner and to deal with unhappy consumers, but it’s part of the job that you just have to deal with. If you follow these tips, though, dealing with unhappy customers should be much less of a headache.