Thursday, March 03, 2005

Customer Complaints 101

SOURCE - Investor's Business Daily
Customer Complaints 101

Handling customer complaints can cause heartburn. Who enjoys hearing someone blast off about some defective product or ill-rendered service?
Still, as tedious as it is, handling complaints is key to a business’ success.
Karen Leland, co-founder of Sterling Consulting Group and author of “Customer Service for Dummies,” says righting a wrong quickly can create a lot of goodwill toward your company.
She says surveys show an 82% chance customers will buy from you again if their complaints are handled fairly and quickly.
“It’s easy to give customer service when things go well,” Leland said. “But it means more to a customer when you take care of things when they go wrong.”
Follow these tips to handle complaints effectively:
Keep a positive attitude. It’s easy to think of a customer who calls or writes about a problem as a whiner, jerk or loser. Truth is, companies make mistakes and customers shouldn’t have to pay for them.
“Avoid negative filters and don’t view the customer as a complainer,” Leland said. “Focus on asking what the customer needs and how you can provide it.”

Listen carefully.

Before offering any solutions, let customers vent. But stop them short of abuse. They can complain about a product or service, but don’t let them call you an idiot. Politely tell them you simply want to help.

Act promptly.

Even before you begin solving the problem, let the client know you’re working on correcting it right away. “Most people with complaints want to know that you are aware of the difficulty and are working to correct it,” wrote Peggy and Peter Post in “The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills For Professional Success.”

Express empathy.

You don’t have to agree with the complaint to show you understand how the customer feels. “Tell them you’re sorry they’re having this problem and that you can see they’re angry,” Leland said.
Avoid scolding the customer. Don’t say, “Your items weren’t sent because you didn’t include your mailing address on the order form.” Try this instead: “We didn’t fill your order because we didn’t have your mailing address.”

Start solving the problem.

Ask questions and show interest in the specific issue. Restate the problem using the customer’s own words. If you’re responding to a written complaint, personalize the letter to show the customer you’ve heard his complaint loud and clear.
Nothing makes customers more furious than receiving a generic “Dear Customer:” letter or e-mail.

Agree to a solution.

If it’s the company’s mistake, apologize and offer a care token. But be sensitive. Offering coupons for free meals may soothe a customer who received poor service but may seem callous and thoughtless to a person who suffered food poisoning, the Posts wrote.

Follow up.

Make sure the solution is in effect, Leland says. If it’s an internal procedure that caused the problem, fix the problem to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Adelia Cellini Linecker


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