How To Handle A Customer Complaint in Six Steps

Discussion
Oct 17, 2013

Through a special arrangement, presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article from the Retail Doc blog.

There are only a handful of customers who enjoy threatening, swearing and throwing a tantrum to get their way. What they want is satisfaction.

Here are six steps to handle a customer complaint:

1. Shut up. That might sound gruff, but when a customer is angry, the last thing they want is someone to jump in and offer a solution. To diffuse their anger and possibly prevent them venting about it to a friend, let the customer get all of their complaints out.

2. Don’t second-guess. Don’t offer your opinion of your customer’s complaint until you understand what it is they are complaining about. If you’re unsure if they are done, ask the customer if they have any other concerns. Keep listening while looking in their eyes.

3. Ask what they want. It can be as simple as an apology. It can be as complex as a replacement for an item purchased a year or more ago without a receipt. Before you jump in with both feet, stay an interested observer and discover what it is they want from you.

4. Tell them what you can do. While they might want the moon, most people are reasonable. Know your boundaries. If you can easily give a refund, do it. However, don’t roll over if they don’t have a receipt as it could be theft — give them store credit if they have proper ID. Also, be clear and tell them what you can do, not what you can’t. If they’re told only a store manager is authorized to do a refund, that pretty much tells the customer they will get a refund. If that’s the case, why is the customer having to go through hoops? Trust and train those who will deal with customer complaints so the customer only has to deal with one person and only once.

5. Ask if they are satisfied. When the situation has been resolved, simply ask the customer if they are satisfied. It may seem unnecessary, but it opens the door for them to get rid of any leftover resentment, ask a question or offer a compliment. You as a retailer end up a winner no matter what they say as they’ve given you one more chance to create an exceptional experience that they can tell their friends about.

6. Share how you handled it with your crew. Every interaction is different, so use the nuances, the exceptions and the positive outcomes to train others at your next store meeting or store huddle.

What advice would you give to associates in how to handle customer complaints? Are there any tips you would add to those mentioned in the article?

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13 Comments on "How To Handle A Customer Complaint in Six Steps"


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Brian Numainville
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Although these can sometimes be tense moments (especially when in person), complaints by customers are a gift and and if handled correctly can win over a customer. Key words in the process… Listen. Show empathy. Be sincere. Tell the customer how you can help (not what you can’t do). Ensure you have resolved the issue. Share best practices.

Kevin Graff
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Good practical advice from The Doc! Only a couple of things to add to what is already a great list:

1. Get on their side of the fence. The moment the customer feels your on their side, they’ll begin to calm down and work with you.

2. Apologize. If your company messed up or the product is defective, it’s the right thing to do. Even when you’ve done nothing wrong, it’s the human thing to do.

Max Goldberg
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Listen. Repeat the complaint. Ask what the customer wants. Remain cool.

Shep Hyken
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

This six steps above are excellent. The goal is to not just fix the problem. In addition, you want to restore confidence. Three things have to happen to do that.

1. Fix what needs to be fixed.
2. Do it with the right attitude.
3. Do it fast.

Simple in theory. More difficult in application. But handling the problem correctly will not only restore confidence, but may also increase the confidence to a level that is higher than if the problem or complaint had never happened at all.

Connie Kski
Guest
Connie Kski
8 years 6 months ago

Well, so what would you do if a customer returned a several hundred dollar item after more than 2 happy years – so way the heck out of warranty – and demanded a full cash refund because he claimed the item was defective? In actual fact, it was damaged by the customer. While we offered to replace the item with a new one (after consulting with the manufacturer and the distributor who clearly stated that the item was not covered for the damage the customer was claiming, but that they’d let it slide) the customer wanted cash cash cash. Nothing else would satisfy him.

We let the customer walk. Customers are not allowed to come into my store and abuse my employees and try to cheat me.

Rick Myers
Guest
Rick Myers
8 years 6 months ago
Maybe some distinctions: 1) Tell the cusomter who you are and you are here to help. Ask what happened.2) Let them vent. Listen and make eye contact. Don’t interrupt.3) Identify with them. Say I’m sorry this happened to you (not admitting any legal liability). What can I do to make it right?4) Go above and beyond where possible. Ask, will this solution be okay with you?5) Thank them for the opportunity to help. Appreciate them as a customer. Be sincere and present.6) Assure the customer you will bring this up at your next staff meeting.7) Ask if there is anything else you can do. Wish them a better day. Let them walk away from you or politely excuse yourself. The worst thing I hear people doing is to say “I’m new. It’s not my staff, or not my fault.” Also don’t say, well, you should have done this instead. I also don’t agree with chastising an associate in front of the customer. In fact, if the customer is hostile, I will ask the associate to… Read more »
Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
8 years 6 months ago

Good list. A pro-active way to drive prevention of the issue and its causes from recurring would be good too.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Great, basic advice. If every retailer would exhibit these behaviors, then more customers would be retained by them. Understanding that the vast majority of customers have legitimate issues when they complain is a great start for the customer service agent or whoever speaks with the customer. Then, following the steps suggested in the article are typically more than enough to diffuse the situation and gain the customer’s buy-in to a potential resolution for the dispute.

Robert DiPietro
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Act with urgency! Like an old retail boss of mine used to say – you are “turning lemons into lemonade.”

Anne Bieler
Guest
Anne Bieler
8 years 6 months ago

Great list. Empathy is key here, good advice on letting the client know what you can do…worst experiences are when CSR repeat corporate policies. There are always opportunities to engage and retain customers when situations are handled well.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

What Is a Customer?

A Customer is the most important person ever in this office . . . in person or by mail (or phone).

A Customer is not dependent on us . . . we are dependent on him.

A Customer is not an interruption to our work . . . he is the purpose for it. We are not doing a favor by serving him . . . he is doing a favor by giving us the opportunity to do so.

A Customer in is not someone we argue or match wits with. Nobody ever won an argument with a Customer.

A Customer is a person who brings us his wants. It is our job to handle them profitably to him and to ourselves.

Rev. Tim George
Guest
Rev. Tim George
8 years 6 months ago

Customer satisfaction is of utmost importance, and proving right or wrong should not be the issue. Always be proactive in your desire to satisfy the customer, and remember the golden rule, to be treated the way you want to be treated. Integrity and respect must be given to the customer, and that will win their satisfaction.

Kai Clarke
Guest
8 years 6 months ago

Listen, Ask, Solve, Ask again. This is the key to enhanced customer service and more satisfied customers.

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