The following is a guest blog from consumer rights campaigner, Helen Dewdney…
It never ceases to amaze me how many companies do nothing with customer complaints. Customer complaints are treated as an annoyance, something that takes up their time and to be dealt with as quickly as possible…but this often backfires.
As a complainer that always asserts her legal rights if a complaint isn’t dealt with properly I’m just going to keep going back taking up more of your time until the matter is resolved properly. That often means going to the CEO, much more expensive than just dealing with it properly in the first place. After that comes Ombudsman or Small Claims Court, media, Trading Standards etc., all very costly to your business. Everyone makes mistakes but it is how you deal with those mistakes that is important in providing your customers with a good experience and developing loyalty.
So, how best to deal a complaint?
Lots of sales experts telling you how to do this? Hmmm how about listening to how a customer would like to be treated?
How to deal with MY complaint!
1) See it as an opportunity to improve your service. If I hadn’t told you about my complaint you wouldn’t know something went wrong and you could be repeating that mistake and losing customers. So first and foremost thank me. Remember, I am taking time to send you my complaint.
2) Acknowledge it quickly. When I don’t get a reply within just a couple of days (that is more than long enough for email I’m afraid) I escalate it, so it’s already cost the company more than if they had invested more in staff numbers in the first place.
3) If the matter is going to take some time to resolve, tell me and tell me when you will be in contact again. If there is further delay you are storing up more trouble. This sort of thing really annoys me and just makes what could be a small complaint grow into more complaints about communicating and customer service and it could have been just “Give me a refund please!” if there was a delay give me a reason why or I’m coming back at you to ask.
4) Empower your staff. This is so important. In my dealings with Tesco, the social media team were very nice and tried so hard to be helpful but they just weren’t actually able to deal with the emails that I had already sent or follow up the complaint that was in the system. I still ended up taking Tesco to court.
5) Part of the problem with that saga and indeed many many of my complaints is the poor communication between departments. It is particularly bad in larger companies so ensure you get them right from the start and think what you will do as you develop; will your systems still work? Test them!
6) Empathising doesn’t mean telling me you would feel the same and be angry too and phrases like that. It is a sure way to annoy customers. You demonstrate that, you don’t tell us that.
7) Ensure your staff are well trained and know at least the main points of consumer law. These should be part and part of your customer service, adhering to Laws before customers tell you their rights after you have refused a refund for example!
8) Train and pay your staff well. Provide good conditions. This breeds loyalty. Staff develop loyalty to your brand and provide the best customer care for your customers who in turn become loyal to your brand too.
9) Resolve the matter. If I want a full refund and am legally entitled to one give it to me! You will have to in the end. Goodwill gestures are just that too. It does provide goodwill and shows in part that you have taken the matter seriously.
10) But what really shows me that you have taken my complaint seriously and have valued my feedback, is you telling me what measures you are putting in place to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Helen Dewdney is The Complaining Cow and is a consumer rights campaigner and blogger. Helen appears on BBC Breakfast, Rip Off Britain, various national, regional and local media and radio, regarding how to complain effectively and how companies can improve the customer experience.
She is also the author of Amazon best seller How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!