Handling Customer Complaints

Sometimes things are out of your control. The weather, the postal service, or just plain bad luck delays your shipments. Employee disorganization or a system error leaves someone’s support request unanswered. Whatever the situation may be, the bottom line is this: to the customer, you are responsible for both the problem and a potential solution. How do you go beyond satisfaction and delight the disappointed customer? By following these simple steps:

1. Make Them Feel Heard – this seems obvious, but the real problem comes from the customer receiving a cursory, apologetic email followed by nothing. If your customer says there’s something wrong with the product, make contact with them. Spend a few minutes on the phone or a few emails back and forth getting at the heart of the product malfunction and helping the customer feel understood. Following that, make realistic pledges to fix and/or improve the product. This makes customers feel like they are part of the solution. After making the pledged improvements, send an email their way to let them know it’s been taken care of.

2. Make Their Time Worthwhile – most of the time, the rapidity at which you address a complaint is worth more than the manner in which you address it. The customer has something to say, and no one wants to be ignored! Don’t allow more than one day to go by without responding to emails, phone calls, or "comments" on your business site. If you can respond in less than a day, even better.

3. Make it a Fair Deal – this is how you can help the customer feel like you heard their problem: give them what they lost. If the issue was a late gift shipment, refund their shipping cost—don’t ask for their input on product quality. If the product was faulty, replace it—don’t just give them a discount on their next order. If the customer has been ignored by support reps, give them all the time in the world—don’t just answer their question. Do what makes sense, because this is what really solves the problem.

4. Make it Better with a Little Extra – after you’ve made it fair, then make it better. You can easily do this without breaking the bank. Simply provide them with an extra percentage off their next purchase. Or give them a $10 giftcard. You could even send the customer a coupon code for free shipping on their next order. The little things matter.

No matter what the situation, if you make the customer feel heard, worthwhile, and fairly dealt with, your little extra at the end will delight them. The cost of obtaining new customers is far above that of retaining repeat clients, so be responsible—for both the problem and the solution.