The recent holiday shopping season
was a time of hustle, bustle and, for some, a lot of stress. Correspondingly,
many business owners experienced not only the
happy ring of a busy cash register, but also the occasional unhappy sting of
a customer's complaint.
But the fact is, complaints can happen any time
of year as customers' busy
schedules and short tempers collide, leading to criticism about some aspect
of your goods or services. Fortunately, you can choose to see a complaint as
important customer leverage point, and work to turn a negative into a positive.
What you do about a complaint will determine whether the customer leaves your
business in a bad mood, never to return, or whether you can satisfy them to
the point that they become a repeat client. From a strategic standpoint, complaints
are actually opportunities waiting to be capitalized on.
Taking a strategic
It is paramount that you not act on your knee-jerk, emotional reactions
to a complaint, because the situation could escalate in the wrong direction.
contrary, the ideal way to solve complaints is to take the time to discover
the root cause of the customer's dissatisfaction, and then deal with
the situation in a practical manner. It is much better to proactively address
so that the customer feels heard and the problem is quickly rectified.
example: if the customer complains that they waited a long time and no one
helped them, you could try giving the client more individualized and personalized
attention. Or, perhaps you could evaluate every point in the client's
buying cycle to determine where you or your staff may, in fact, have dropped
You need to show the customer that you care about them, and that you will take
the experience as a lesson that you will apply to your business. Customers
appreciate it when their concerns are validated, and not ignored or brushed
Ultimately, however, your goal should be to go beyond implementing a one
and work to systematize solutions so that similar complaints won't happen
again -- either with that customer, or with any other customers. If you don't
strategically identify a system to address complaints, you will never know
if you just fixed something this once, or if you solved it for good.
One important step you can take is to identify the complaints and
the various solutions and put them down in writing. Then, you should take into
any necessary resources required to implement this new system, such as new
new staff accountabilities, or additional training that could serve the business
for both the short and the long term.
Once those issues have been clarified,
you can roll the system out to the users. This does not mean simply leaving
a copy with a "please read" post-it
note on their desk. Rather, it might be a good idea for you and your employees
to actively role-play complaint scenarios, so that they can see how similar
complaints can be better handled in the future. You may also want to engage
through question-and-answer periods and discussion sessions to ensure that
they have no hesitations about the new system, and that any uncertainties are
After the system has been developed and rolled out to employees,
then what? Should you assume that you will no longer receive any customer
complaints? Not necessarily.
You must continue to keep an eye out for any weaknesses in the system, quickly
identify any new complaints, and then fold the solutions to those new complaints
into the system. It will be a perpetual cycle of innovating, quantifying,
orchestrating, and constantly improving.
Opportunities in disguise
Remember, you should actually appreciate hearing
complaints because they give you a clear reference point of where you can
do better. You will never
your objectives if you react to complaints negatively, sweep them under
the rug, or do not take them seriously.
Complaints are really just opportunities
in disguise that can enable you to optimize and improve the inner workings
of the business. And,
a customer complaint as a leverage point to turn a negative into a
positive, you can take advantage of the opportunity to take your business to