How to Handle Customer Complaints
Nobody looks forward to receiving customer complaints. If you’ve put in place a good customer relations culture and take pride in the work that you do, it can feel personal when a customer is less than happy with their experience.
Consumers are better informed and have higher expectations than ever so, in any business, handling customer complaints is a fact of life. Is there a way to improve how you deal with complaints and use them to improve your business and your reputation?
Develop and action a customer complaints policy
Good preparation for the inevitable complaints is the first step.
Whether a customer is one of life’s constant whingers or they have a valid point, being prepared with a complaint handling policy will help ensure you deal with them all fairly, appropriately and consistently. This process means you can deal with each complaint without the stress of making up responses on the fly. It also means your staff all understand the policies and procedures they need to follow when it comes to complaints.
From a customer point of view, a complaints policy offers an opportunity to report issues easily, have their concerns acknowledged and dealt with quickly, fairly and sensitively.
How do you draft your customer complaint policy?
- Involve your staff in creating your policy. This will ensure they are invested in implementing it day to day.
- Ensure all staff know what the policies are and how to treat complaints fairly. If individuals ignore complaints or immediately blame the customer it will only make the problem worse.
- Make it easy for customers to complain. A needlessly complicated or unclear process will only aggravate them further and make it harder to resolve their issues.
- Decide which staff you want to choose as your complaint handlers. Having given them this authority, ensure they are well trained to understand the procedures and practices involved. It can give complainants more faith in the system when the complaint handling is a specific part of the person’s role.
- Set a reasonable time frame for responding to complaints in order to manage customer expectations. Aim to keep it to a minimum, depending on how complex the situation is.
- Give one person the responsibility for managing a complaint from beginning to end. This avoids tasks being missed or duplicated and also provides the complainant with one point of contact who knows the relevant details.
What should your complaints policy include?
- An explanation of why your business welcomes complaints.
- Who the policy covers and who is authorised to resolve complaints.
- Definition of ‘complaints’ that are subject to the policy (as opposed to, for instance, minor issues that are quickly resolved).
- A commitment to quick, fair and confidential complaint handling. Set timelines for keeping customers informed and resolving the issue.
- How complaints will be logged and how any further conversations and actions will be recorded.
- List the acceptable ways staff can resolve complaints. Can they offer refunds or replacement goods or services, for instance?
- Describe how unresolved complaints will be dealt with if the customer remains unhappy.
- Where customers can get further help.
Your complaints policy should be reviewed regularly to ensure it is providing the best possible outcomes for customers, staff, and the business as a whole.
This kind of clear complaint handling policy encourages customers to be part of the solution rather than being viewed as a problem. With a good policy in place, dealing with complaints is less stressful for you and your staff and customers are more likely appreciate a fair, respectful experience even if they don’t get the exact outcome they hoped for.