How To Deal With the Gift of a Complaint

One of my biggest frustrations is trying to get a problem fixed when things go wrong. We have all been there, a product we purchased doesn’t work, a garment is defective, and whatever the problem is we just want it resolved quickly and promptly. This is when the frustration starts, what should be a simple thing becomes difficult, adding to the already inconvenience of the original problem.

Some companies do it well, yet others need to step up and improve their processes or run the high risk of losing customers forever. I have mentioned before that research tells us only a small number of customers will actually complain, a massive 90% plus, don’t even bother. So if we receive the gift of a customer complaint, which is the way we should look at them, then we need to have a good process in place to deal with it.

Here’s one example that I experienced that could have gone better. Returning a top I had bought, that was coming apart, I went back to the store with my receipt. The sales person said yes it’s faulty, but couldn’t organise an exchange without the manager’s authority. The manager was at lunch! Luckily he rang and the manager came back had a quick look at the garment, confirmed it was faulty and said yes.

Here’s where it could have all gone wrong very quickly – if the store couldn’t get hold of the manager to come back, I would have had to wait, adding to my frustration of having to drive to the store to return the item. This is such a simple one to fix – empower the frontline staff to make a decision within parameters to avoid this situation happening. The amount of time wasted by the store and me as the customer could have been easily fixed by empowered staff just dealing with it.

When I’m complaining about something, all the good service in the world amounts to nothing if they don’t fix the problem. We are all time poor so businesses have to have a simple process that staff can follow.

Here’s an example of what can be done when the frontline team is empowered. A customer ordered a coat on line, but when it arrived, she realised the material wouldn’t suit as she had dogs that shed hair. When she rang to ask how she could return the coat for a refund this is what she was told. “We will certainly refund your purchase. Please don’t send the coat back, if you know someone who needs a winter coat or if you would like to donate it to a charity that would make us really happy.” What!!!!! The customer was stunned, uploaded an extremely positive comment that resulted in 134,000 views and 60,000 shares. The power of social media.

Now I’m not saying we should just refund at the drop of a hat, but this is a great example of empowering a frontline team member to deal with the situation. Every business must do this as this is one area that is often done poorly. Yet when it is done well, ensures a satisfied customer, generates lots of goodwill and creates customer loyalty.

I would strongly recommend that you review your returns policy and ensure that your front line team has the authority to deal with situations, without scripts, and with the customer as their focus. Think of how much time it will save as well as the goodwill.

Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Ultimate Retail Sales Experience” With over 35 years’ industry experience, Roger Simpson is recognized as Australia’s #1 Authority on customer ROI in the retail industry and as a global expert on staff coaching, customer service, and selling skills.