Customer complaints suck. But if you’ve been in business for a while, by now you realize that they’re just part of the job. At some point, it’s inevitable that you’ll have to deal with an upset customer. It’s how you handle these customer complaints that’s key to avoiding a bigger negative impact, or possibly creating a raving fan.
You have the chance to save these situations.
The beauty of customer complaints is that often times you can turn the complainers into passionate advocates for your brand. It is possible to get them to go from a ‘hater’ to recommending you to their friends and families.
First, start by viewing any customer complaints as an opportunity instead of a negative. You have the chance to improve your services, yourselves and your processes if you take action on the feedback that you receive. It’s a second chance to cement solid customer relationships.
Studies show that nine times out of ten, a customer will continue doing business with you even after a slip-up—under one circumstance: you fix the situation the first time.
Handling customer complaints doesn’t mean being right, but it is always about being willing to make it right.
STEP ONE: Manage Your Emotions Then Engage with the Customer
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Customers want to be treated with respect. The moment you stop treating them with respect is the day you lose customers.
Be genuine. When it comes to customer complaints, the old saying “kill them with kindness couldn’t be more true in this situation. Don’t pretend to care or put on a fake smile, genuinely let them know that you care about the issue at hand and want to solve the problem. Customers can spot insincerity a million miles away. You’ll make an impression on them but only if you really mean it. Be real.
Don’t play the blame game. Forget trying to “win.” It’s easy to start pointing finger and tell a customer they’re wrong in what they’re saying. But this won’t help rectify the situation or diffuse a customer from getting more upset. Instead of challenging them, listen to what they’re saying. Make the customer feel like you’re working on this together to make things right.
Don’t lose your cool. Handle customer complaints without your personal emotions getting in the way. Sometimes this is easier said than done. But it’s important to put yourself in a customer service mindset—put aside any feelings you might have that the situation isn’t your fault or that the client has made a mistake. If you feel like your blood is boiling, here are some quick tips to keep your cool:
- Just breathe. Stop what you’re doing and take five deep breaths in and out. Imagine all that stress leaving your body when you exhale.
- Take a break and trick your brain to think about anything other than the complaint situation. Go for a walk or go somewhere new for lunch.
Don’t take it personally. Customer complaints can sometimes be some hard-to-hear truths about your business and (gasp!) maybe even yourself. But customer complaints aren’t a personal attack on you as a person. Let’s face it. Sometimes we screw up and it’s OK!
And remember that you’re working as a team towards a common goal and to grow your business—you’re in this together! Let customer complaints be the driving force to better yourself and your business. It’s your driving force to prove them wrong and fix the problem right away.
STEP TWO: Listen Up & Ask the Right Questions
Sounds so easy, but really, really listening to your customers will give you tons of valuable information. Practice active listening. Are they mad because a service took longer than they thought? Was someone on your team disrespectful? Customers are asking to be heard and want to know that you’re listening to their problems and that you will do something to solve it.
Allow them to speak, then relay the problem back to them for clarification. Repeating what they voiced to you shows that you were listening and can work to lower their frustration or stress levels. You need to be absolutely sure that the customer is clear on the resolution and that it met his or her needs. Ask questions to help get to the source of the issue. Here are some neutral examples to start a positive dialogue:
- “Let’s go over what happened.”
- “Please tell me why you’re upset.”
- “What would make our service invaluable to you?”
- “What could we have done differently?”
STEP THREE: Take action and provide a solution!
After receiving a complaint, don’t just put it off until tomorrow. Correct the situation stat. Studies show that service recovery can create even more powerful and positive reviews. Which equals happy customers. All that matters is that you are aware that the customer is upset and that it’s up to you to solve the problem. Now. You’ve maintained your cool, listened to what they’ve had to say, and are now ready to take the next step toward resolution. Some ideas to resolve customer complaints may include:
- Talking with the individual on your team involved in the mistake
- Updating your process to ensure this type of mistake doesn’t happen again
- Refunding the customer a portion of their bill
I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Customers singing this Rolling Stones song too much? After customer complaints, make sure they’re satisfied and that you presented an adequate, if not stellar, solution. Think about it. A customer is unhappy, what do they do next? They spread the word. They jump online and leave a bad review and post about it on Facebook. So now their unhappy experience is made known all over town. So how do you nip this negative domino effect in the bud? Keep reading for the next step.
STEP FOUR: Follow up
After the situation has been resolved—really resolved 100%--follow up with your customer over the next few days to make sure that they’re satisfied with the outcome. When and how you follow up can really be your saving grace to turning customer complaints into satisfied and happy customers. Check out these stats from Review Trackers regarding responding to negative online reviews:
- ReviewTrackers found that 52 percent of customers expect to hear back from brands within 7 days of writing an online review, particularly one that’s negative or critical. 1 in 4 customers are more demanding, expecting a review response within 3 days, while 21 percent expect brands to have a response time of 24 hours or less.
- 78 percent of consumers say that seeing management respond to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them.
Here’s a great tip to master the art of the follow up: CARP.
Customer service trainer Robert Bacal outlines a simple system called CARP in his book Defusing Hostile Customers Workbook.
If you know the issue was resolved, and the customer already wrote a bad review publicly prior to the resolution, it’s still A-OK to reach out to see if they might be willing to update their review. Or perhaps your fixing the issue right away and with flying colors was more than enough to send them running back to their account to write a glowing review in its place.
Here are some magic phrases and words from Fast Company to use at will in andy of your follow-up correspondence!
- “You’re right.”
- “I’d love to help with this.”
- “I can fix this for you.”
- “Let me look into this for you.”
- “I’ll keep you updated.”
Full words (use liberally):
- Thank you!
- I’m really sorry
- This sucks
- I know this is frustrating
- You’re right
- That’s a great idea!
- Let me check and get back to you
- Thanks for sharing your idea/thoughts/taking the time to help improve the product
STEP FIVE: Track Customer Complaints
You want to reduce the risk of the situation ever happening again. So start thinking of your customer complaints as feedback. Valuable nuggets of information right at your fingertips for the taking. Gathering feedback is crucial to providing excellent service. Also, keeping track of customer complaints will show you if there are recurring concerns. An effective complaint tracking procedure is detrimental to your company’s reputation and customer retention. One way to track customer complaints is by using Google Alerts. You will receive email updates of the latest Google results based on your queries. Setup queries for your brand terms and related words. Every single time those queries are picked up on the web, you get a quick email update. This will help to track any brand mentions on review sites like Yelp.
Need help in the tracking department? BAYiQ could be the solution. With BAYiQ, you can automatically gather customer feedback through customer reviews. Our system does this for you:
Gets feedback from every customer:
→ If feedback is negative, our system will email your shop to let you know so you can reach out (see tips above! Turn those customer complaints around!)
→ If feedback is good (heck yes!) it will post the review online for others to read it in all its shining glory
Gain a better understanding of how our programs work and how easy it is to implement in your business today and start seeing results in no time! Watch our demo now!
BONUS STEP: Stay Ahead of the Competition with BAYiQ
If you want customers raving about your auto repair shop, step up your customer service game. Keeping your customers happy and loyal can give your business an advantage over the competition. One way to do this is with a rewards program.
Rewards programs drive retention - and even a 5% increase in customer retention can result in a 25-100% increase in profit for your business.
So, are you missing out?
See for yourself the results repair & tire shops are achieving with the BAYiQ rewards program.