Ineffective problem solving is costing Australia $40 billion

These customers are a challenging bunch (I should know I’m one of them)! Funny how we just expect the company we deal with to deliver on what they promise and if they don’t at least fix the issue. Yet even with all our advances in technology (and how this is supposedly helping to improve customer service), most businesses don’t handle fixing problems very well at all.

Recent research from the US, by Customer Care Measurement & Consulting (CCMC), who carry out the Customer Rage survey (yes this is a legit survey), found out that more than $300 billion in future sales is put at risk, due to poor customer service in relation to dealing with complaints. They found that 62 million families (in the US), experienced at least one problem over the past 12 months. This is a massive number of issues, and worse still, close to 80% were still unhappy with the way their complaint was dealt with.

We all know what happens when we have a complaint that we feel is not adequately resolved – we are highly unlikely to go back to that company and we certainly tell others – even more so today with social media.

This is where the whole complaint issue starts to unravel even further. According to an Ernst-Young survey in Australia, 47% of customers posted their complaint on social media, yet in 75% of the cases the company didn’t even respond. This is absolutely appalling, no wonder so many people feel that their complaints are poorly dealt with.

Anyway enough with the statistics, how can you improve the way you deal with your customer complaints? Firstly, you have to make sure it’s easy for customers to complain. If you don’t know you have problems you can’t fix them. Too many companies make it too hard to lodge a complaint, resulting in a lot of customers simply walking away, taking their business elsewhere. In today’s tough retail environment you can’t afford to lose a single customer.

So, make it easy. A lot of customers, particularly millennials, want to try and problem solves themselves via FAQ’s, help functions etc and if they can solve the issues themselves that is great. Make it easy for them to lodge a complaint on their preferred social media channel. Don’t be one of the close to 80% of companies who don’t respond though. And, critically, you have to respond to them via the same channel, don’t make it hard for the customer to receive your response.

If you do actually talk with a customer who is complaining, follow these simple steps to successfully resolve most of the issues:

  • Listen without interrupting – customers usually want to vent and interrupting will only magnify their frustration.
  • As soon as you can offer a sincere apology – a gesture most customers don’t expect.
  • Don’t justify or blame others – another key factor that customers hate. This is all about taking ownership of the problem, even if you didn’t cause it.
  • Problem solves and tries to come up with options – this is the key factor, coming up with a resolution that satisfies customers (and leads to return business). Options are a great way to show you are there to assist the customer to a satisfactory result. Frontline staff must be given some boundaries to operate under so they have the flexibility to offer multiple solutions. Complaints that are handled and resolved at first contact provide an amazing experience for customers and once again provides customer service beyond their expectations.

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.