Top Right and Wrong Reactions to Customer Complaints

October 14th, 2015

Employee Yelling into Phone | Customer Service

As the saying goes, the customer is always right. Customers are obviously the most important aspect of any business, particularly for service companies. Service companies rely on repeat customers for repeat business such as installation projects, regular maintenance, and other work.

However, as any business owner knows, not everything is butterflies and rainbows. No matter how efficiently you’re running your business, you’ll eventually receive a complaint or criticism of some kind. It’s important to take these complaints seriously, because buried within all criticism are kernels of constructive advice. Often, a negative experience can not only be salvaged, but can be turned into an opportunity.

In fact, studies have found that 90% of the time, a customer will continue doing business with a company even after a mistake was made—provided the mistake was admitted and fixed the first time around. But as Evernote CEO Phil Libin says on feedback: “Feedback is great for telling you what you did wrong. It’s terrible at telling you what you should do next.” That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the top right and wrong reactions to customer complaints—to help you figure out what you should do next. Use it as your hand-book and let it assist you in achieving your business’s goal of exemplary support service.

DO distinguish between different types of customers.

There are a few common archetype personas that will be filing complaints with you. The below are the main ones:

-The Shy Customer. This customer will send a complain, but it will be meek. The inquiry might not include enough information at first. It is your responsibility to dig deeper to get to the core of the problem. Ask this customer enough questions to get to the bottom of the situation.

-The Confrontational Customer. This is an aggressive customer who isn’t afraid to tell you what’s wrong. The confrontational customer can be visibly irritated, or will even raise their voice at you. Avoid mirroring their behavior; the best reaction is firm politeness.

-The VIP. Otherwise known as “high rollers.” These will either be your “big” customers, customers who pay handsomely, or customers who pay well and demand premium support in exchange. Because they account for a hefty part of your revenue, they need to be treated with care and priority.

-Chronic Complainer. This customer will complain constantly. However, you shouldn’t ignore his/her problem. Chronic complainers require patience, but once you have converted them, they will be singing you accolades.

-Free-loader. This is the customer who wants a handout. They will stop at nothing to get free stuff. Respond reasonably, and don’t cave in by giving out free stuff the customer doesn’t deserve.

DON’T neglect customers at “lower levels”

Customer complaints should be prioritized, but never ignored. Your meek customer is just as important as your more aggressive one, though the latter is considerably more annoying than the former. It’s important to address VIP complaints, and even giving them priority, but don’t let other complains slip by either.

DO transfer quickly

Obviously, the goal of any business is to get problems sorted out as soon as possible. However, if a particular customer service representative is not the appropriate person to solve a situation, it is important that the caller is transferred to the correct department as soon as possible.

DON’T transfer sloppily

No one appreciates someone who doesn’t listen to their problem. Make sure you representatives take a moment to briefly explain to a customer why they are being transferred. Never hang up on a customer.

DO use supportive questioning

Every sentence you use in a confrontation should have a neutral, if not positive, inflection. For example, instead of saying “Is there anything else wrong?” you should say something like “How else may I assist you today?” Try to take the negative feeling away from the conversation.

DO respond quickly

Not only does replying quickly help you tackle problems more efficiently and get one step closer to that illustrious inbox zero, customers appreciate it, too. Customers who are tearing their hair out over an issue demand a response right away, while less urgent issues can take a day or so. If the situation is one that cannot be solved quickly, email the customer anyway, letting them know that their complaint has been acknowledged and is being worked on.

DO update customers regularly

For longer-solve issues, it’s key that you don’t go MIA for the duration. If a problem is taking longer than usual to solve, let the customer know. Keep them regularly updated on what’s going on.

DON’T snap back

No matter who the customer or what the situation, never never EVER respond rudely, icily, or raise your voice. This is a recipe for trouble. If one of your employees is having difficulty keeping calm and respectful, apologize on their behalf and swap them out for someone who can maintain a level demeanor.

DO use the Ritz-Carlton principle

The Ritz-Carlton principle is simple: “Ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Open metaphorical doors, always use “please” and “thank you,” and make the customer feel welcome. Don’t be over-the-top, however. Be kind and polite, but not cheesy. Excessive compliments risk not only sounding insincere, but sounding downright creepy.

DON’T hold on

If a customer wants to cancel his/her account with you or cease doing business with you, don’t argue. You won’t win back customers by making their exit difficult. In fact, all you do is succeed in getting them to affirm in their heads that they don’t want to come back. Make sure the exit process is frictionless and easy, and let the customer know there are no hard feelings. Try to learn what you can from the experience.