Complaints can be real blessings for your business. They are the people’s talk behind your back about your business and products.
They include information that you might not be aware of and show you the direction you need to take. They usually represent the feelings and emotions not only from the person that gave you the complaint, but tens, if not hundreds of other dissatisfied customers.
Most people fear receiving complaints. They hate them and the idea of dealing with them is overwhelming most of the times. They dispute them, argue with the customers, ignore them and feel superior enough to take any action on them.
Love the idea of receiving complaints. They are your additional armour to the road to success and the battle against your competitors.
Imagine not having received a specific complaint about your service and still be in the dark, until it’s too late to take action.
Types of complaints
But not all complaints are the same. There are different types and you need to be able to categorise them, in order to to deal with the ones that you need to.
Complaints for unmet customer needs
These are the complaints you will receive because you don’t have something that the customers request.
They are the most valuable complaints as they will show you the customers’ needs that you have not been able to meet yet. And believe me that if the customers need something that you don’t offer, they will go to your competitors to find it.
These complaints are true gifts to you because people tell you for free exactly what they need without you having to try or pay to get this invaluable information.
Complaints for changes in your service or products
People are usually uncomfortable with change. Most of them hate it. The same will happen with your business.
If you remove something form your offering and substitute it with something new, you will definitely receive complaints. Period. But due to the fact that these complaints are based on peoples’ psychology and not the quality of your work and choices, they are not the most informative for your purposes.
The best thing to do in such cases is to be patient and combine them with specific data, before you make any decision.
If the sales of the specific product you changed have dropped dramatically in a set period of time, then the complaints had a true basis and you need to take immediate action.
Complaints for not meeting customers’ expectations
Customers’ expectations are based on own experiences the customers had in your place, the recommendations for your business that other people have given them and the promise you make to them regarding your products and services through marketing, advertisement, etc.
When you receive a complaint that you didn’t meet their expectations, you need to identify where is the problem that needs to be fixed.
The areas you need to look at are: your operations and the way you’re doing things in your business, the product itself and its suitability for the purpose, and finally, to examine if what you advertise and promote is the same with what you finally offer to your customers.
It’s definite that one or more of these areas will need to be changed to reflect reality and don’t violate basic customers’ expectations when they choose your business to spend their money.
Complaints designed to exploit you and your business
These are fraudulent complaints and their purpose is to exploit you so they can receive a free service or product, and sometimes financial compensation.
They are illegitimate complaints and can be really disheartening for you and the effort and pride you put in your business.
Unfortunately, our society has its lowest and we need to be able to deal with them effectively, as most of the time these people are low-class frauds.
They might try to intimidate you and threaten with legal action against you, but if you consider that the cost of such action might be hundreds of times more expensive than the actual claim they make against you, all you need to do is to treat them politely, give them a basic explanation and set them free to carry on with their lives.
Steps to follow when dealing with complaints
Now that we can identify the types of complaints, lets go through a number of steps you need to follow when dealing with a complaint.
- Listen to the person with attention and respect. Do not interrupt them and allow them to finish.
- Don’t show any negative emotions and feelings to the complainant during the discussion.
- Doublecheck with them that you have understood what they are saying by making the right questions.
- Make sure that you have correctly identified the complainant’s expectations and assess if you are able to meet them.
- Be completely honest with them if you can meet their expectations.
- Agree with the complainant an achievable solution within a specific time-frame.
- You need to review the outcomes of this solution within the agreed time-frame, to determine if both sides are satisfied with them.
- Keep a record of the complaint so you are able to retrieve information in the future.
- Don’t argue with the complainant, challenge or dismiss the complaint.
- Don’t be tense and aggressive while you are dealing with the complaint.
- Avoid not acknowledging the complainant and being non attentive to them.
- Don’t over-promise and agree on things you are unable to offer.
- Don’t neglect informing the complainant about the steps you need to take and the process you need to follow so they are well informed about the progress of their claim.
My personal opinion is that you need to be balanced with your approach regarding the complaints. It’s impossible to make everyone happy and if you take this road, you will drive yourself crazy and ruin your business at the end.
Use the knowledge shared above, your records form the complaints and your business identity, and choose the complaints you will act on.
These are the ones that add the most value to your business and at the same time they help the most possible customers.
Unfortunately, the rest, that don’t meet your specific criteria for further action, need to be ignored.