10 Killer Ways To Take Charge of Customer Complaints

The following is a guest blog from consumer rights campaigner, Helen Dewdney

Helen DewdneyIt 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!

Take Care of Your Customers, Before Someone Else Does

I was recently invited to deliver a brief Customer Service presentation at a Cubiq Design event and for those who were unable to attend, here is the basis of my talk…

customer-service.0822.12Customer Service is Reactive
Too often, customer service is thought of solely as a reaction to a customer complaint or a measured response to a piece of feedback. Very often customers don’t complain, they just don’t come back. How about this? Last summer I visited JD Sports to buy a pair of trainers. When I found ones I liked, I handed them to the shop assistant and asked for them in my size. After a few minutes, she returned and handed me the shoes back “We don’t have them in stock I’m afraid” and walked off instead of offering an alternative pair or finding out more about what I was after. So I simply walked out! I’m not alone here either as 90% of UK shoppers walk away without buying something if they get bad customer service. How can anyone react to customer emotions that they never get to hear?

This works both ways though. Picture the scene. I’m sitting in a coffee shop in Vienna Airport after a weekend away before returning to the UK via Germany. After my coffee, I head to the gate only to be met by ground crew who tell me my flight is delayed and at Berlin Airport they will need to rush me off the plane and head quickly to my connecting flight. On arrival, nothing happened and I missed my flight… I was tired and angry that I was promised an action that never happened. Once I got to the Air Berlin customer service desk I had mentally prepared my words to express how unhappy I was, only to be met by

Before you say anything Mr Goodman, you’ve missed your flight to the UK, there are no more this evening and there is nothing I can do about that. However, I have a taxi outside waiting to take you to a hotel which I’ve booked you into. You will also receive a meal, and tomorrow morning you will be picked up at 5.30 to bring you back here where you’re booked on the first flight home. Any questions?

…er, no!!

Customer Service is Proactive
I think what both those instances tell us is that Customer Service is much more proactive. Actually, it’s often more about how we’re treated before we’re actually customers. It’s why we use the accountant that we do, or my hairdresser, or where I get my lunch from. It’s why Nicky and I even chose to open our accounts with our bank. It’s the way we were treated from the moment our relationship started, long before we signed any agreements or I sat down for a trim. Again, my emotions and reactions as a customer here are far from unique. In fact, 86% of customers are more likely to purchase something following a good customer experience and 64% are unlikely to repurchase something if they are very dissatisfied with the customer service interaction.

Customer Service is Reciprocal
Although this has been the case for years, the impact of social media has increased this further with customer service being now more about reciprocity. A powerful psychological state that produces deep seated motivation. In short, you do something amazing for a customer and they feel they have to do something amazing back – like share how wonderful you are.

A simply example of this happened only recently when a customer asked if we possibly had a spare laptop charger he could use, was it a Dell and how much was it? We did, it was and he didn’t have to pay anything. He was so happy (and relieved) that he put it on his Facebook page which is liked by 1002 people.

It is clear from all this, that customer service is intrinsic in everything we do. Therefore, here are 3 simple tips for you to focus on:

1) It Starts From Now
The next person who calls you or walks through your door could be a customer. So, treat them with the respect that your existing customers would expect. How they feel will affect their buying decision and determine how they speak about you. Even if they don’t buy from you, there is every chance that they know someone who is looking for what you offer.

2) Ask Your Customers
In case you missed the headline, here it is again “Ask Your Customers.” I think we’re often afraid of asking because we’re afraid of the response. But why? What’s the worst that can happen? If they hate you and never plan to buy from you again, find out why. If you’re not sure what to ask, may I suggest simply these:

  • Would you recommend me/us to a friend?
  • Why?

3) Give Your Customers a Platform
If your customers’ emotions have been push to one end of the spectrum or another, they will talk about you. Therefore, it’s best to know what they’re saying. So, have a page on your website or encourage them to use your social media feeds, but give them a chance to say how wonderful you are or what you can do better.

I’ll leave the last words to Walt Disney…

“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do”