“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”~Bill Gates, Business @ the Speed of Thought
Do you realize that only 5% of unhappy customers actually complain to the company directly? The rest don’t keep it to themselves: they tell their friends and family (and nowadays post on social media).
For this reason, anyone who does come to your company directly with a complaint should be treated as the gift that they are, for they represent themselves as well as the other 95% who never say anything.
How can your business correct a problem if you never know about it?
Unless you have a legion of employees whose only job is to go through your business just like your customers and look for problems, you won’t know unless a customer tells you.
Here’s how to handle a customer complaint:
- Thank her. Start by sincerely thanking her for bringing the issue to your attention. Your customers feedback is priceless and your business will be better for hearing what she has to say.
- Listen. Then, from this place of gratitude, listen to what your customer has to say. Really listen. Listen for the feelings the customer experienced during the contact. Listen for the customer to tell you what will make her happy. And listen for ways that your business could improve the customer experience based on what this customer is telling you.
- Apologize. Offer the customer a sincere apology for her experience. Even when you had nothing to do with the problem and even when you can’t actually fix the problem, a sincere appology goes a long way to making a customer feel better about what happened.
- Offer a Solution. If you have a solution to offer, offer it. If you don’t know what would make the customer happy, ask her. You might be hesitant to ask the customer for fear that she will ask for the moon, but most customers only want the business to listen to them and take their complaints seriously. The solution that they offer is often a simple thing for the business to provide — a refund, free shipping, a discount — and sometimes the customer doesn’t want anything more than to know that their opinion matters to you.
Customers who complain are giving your business feedback on how it is doing that you can’t get any other way. Listen to those who complain and take their complaints seriously. Most of all, handle all complaints from a place of gratitude. Complaints are gifts. It is up to you to see the value that they contain.