How to Respond to a Customer Complaint

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Handling customer complaints is an important part of any business; the manner in which the complaint is handled can mean the difference between big profits and losses due to customer dissatisfaction. Customer dissatisfaction with billing, prices, response time, personnel, documentation or a product or service are common types of complaints. Complaints may be legitimate, exaggerated or even untrue. Businesses can solve problems and ensure future business with a customer by resolving problems both effectively and efficiently.

  • Listen to the customer complaint without interrupting. Give him your full and undivided attention. Once he has finished, ask if there is any other information you should know; then thank him for reporting the complaint.

  • Agree with the customer that a problem exists. Do not disagree or argue.

  • Apologize for the problem and assure the customer that you will work to solve the problem as soon as possible.

  • Resolve the problem to the best of your ability within the guidelines set by your company or organization. If necessary, provide an alternative solution until the customer is satisfied. If the problem will take more than a few minutes to resolve, completely explain the procedures or steps necessary to solve the problem. Customers want to know that their problems will be resolved in a reasonable amount of time, if the complaint cannot be handled immediately.

  • Assure the customer that you want to ensure that the same problem does not happen again to anyone else. Customers are more willing to return to a business that has resolved a problem effectively; customers have more tolerance for poor service than for poor recovery.

  • Stay informed about the problem's resolution by contacting departments that are working to remedy the issue. If the solution will require a multi-step process, ensure that all departments or people are working together to solve the problem in a reasonable time frame.

  • Keep the customer informed of the problem's solution. Let him know about progress, listen carefully to his concerns and assure him that the problem is on its way to being fixed.

  • Follow up with the customer to ensure that all proper steps were taken to follow the problem. Thank the customer for his continued patronage.

Tips & Warnings

  • Some customer-service complaints can be resolved with one visit or one phone call. Lengthy issues should be tracked and reviewed to ensure that progress is being made. Some solutions do not require prolonged contact with the customer.
  • Never call the customer names, tell them they are stupid or use hand gestures to indicate impatience. You will never win an argument with a customer, but you could lose the customer.
  • If you can't understand a customer because of a language barrier get help. Don't say, "I can't help you unless you speak English."
  • Don't let an interruption to help someone else stop the conversation. The longer the customer stands waiting for you, the angrier they will get.

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