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The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Customer Complaints

Even when you embrace excellence to grow your business, at some point you’ll make mistakes. No one is perfect, and sooner or later, you’ll face an unhappy client. And although it’s something anyone hardly talks about, as a leader of your business, you need to know how to deal with it effectively without damaging your brand image. 

Because of it, here’s a 7-step process that will help you deal with customer complaints in a professional manner. 

1. Listen first

When a client contacts you with a complaint, the first thing they expect from you is being heard. So first, listen to understand. That means also asking non-accusatory, thoughtful questions to get a clear understanding and picture of what transpired to cause the issue. The better you know it, the better your response will be.  

2. Deep breathe and don’t let your emotions take over

No matter how angry your customer is and no matter what they say, don’t let your emotional brain take over. If you do, you’ll make yourself react instead of responding and most likely regret it after. Take a few deep breaths if you need to compose yourself and allow your logical brain to kick in.

Now you’re ready to put yourself in your client’s shoes, empathize with them. It will allow you to understand their point of view entirely. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready for the next step.

3. Respond with acknowledgment and kindness

When you respond, be kind, and first acknowledge their concerns. Show that indeed you do understand their position and empathize with them. Then, apologize for the inconvenience the situation has caused and anything else that warrants an apology.

4. Take responsibility

Next, be transparent and take responsibility. There are always two sides to the coin. From my experience, most issues, especially in a service-based business, stem from early miscommunication between the parties.

However, when you apologize and take responsibility for your side, never blame the client for anything. Instead, express your gratitude for them bringing the issue to your attention. Be as transparent as you can as to what happened. It will show you are genuine in your approach. It’ll give the client confidence and trust that you’ll fix it in the best way possible.

5. Clearly communicate your solution.

Afterward, you can move on to explaining the solution you’ve chosen to address the complaint. Ensure that the solution offers a lot of value to the client and can be delivered fast. Time is of essence here. Even if they chose to no longer do business with you, you want them to leave feeling like they were heard and didn’t lose value after all. This way, you’ll protect your reputation and brand image.

6. Follow up

Don’t forget to follow up a few days after your solution to the complaint is implemented. There is nothing worse, like another complaint compounding the client’s aggravation.

7. Lessons learned and move on.

And lastly, take this opportunity to do lessons learned. Our mistakes are very often the best triggers for improvement. Analise again what happened, why things went wrong, and what you can improve to ensure this issue will not happen again.

Once you’ve done that and implemented the improvement, and maybe grieved a bit (we are all human, complaints suck 😊), move on. No one is perfect. And beating yourself up is not going to bring you anything positive. Why stay there when you have a lot of wonderful and happy customers to focus your energy on!

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