We all know that feeling. Something about their service wasn’t quite right and you think it would be good to tell them so they know for next time. You’re thinking, they’ll take it well, they might even apologise and thank me for bringing it to their attention.
And then …….. The person you tell doesn’t seem very interested, they say it wasn’t their fault, it’s our policy, and the manager’s not here blah, blah, blah. Excuses, justifications, blame is all the customer hears, nothing about listening and helping me.
No wonder that 96% of customers don’t bother complaining, they simply walk out, and many don’t bother to return. In fact recent research I came across stated that 91% don’t come back. Why are these figures so high?
Because in most businesses we don’t train and empower our staff on how to handle a customer complaint, so staff have to make it up as they go. Unfortunately they try and do the right thing by the business but this is not putting the customer first. Most customers are genuine when they make a complaint, of course there will always be a small minority that will try and have you on. However let’s not make rules for the minority, let’s focus on the much larger percentage that have a genuine issue that we can probably fix pretty easily.
A few companies do it well, I find Myer great at exchanging or refunding and I’m very impressed with the Nordstorm (US) approach – they just refund it, even if it’s not their original product!!!
The Beechworth Bakeries, who I work with here in Australia, have an excellent policy – it’s their 200% unconditional guarantee – if the product is not right they replace it and refund your money, no questions asked. Now that is standing behind their product.
The key thing though is to make sure that all staff know how to handle the disappointed and sometimes irate customer. Here’s 5 simple steps that will work with most customers:
- Immediately apologise and thank them for taking the time to complain – saying “I’m sorry that has happened” tells the customer that you are sorry for what has happened and calms them down. Thanking them tells them you want to resolve the issue.
- Listen – don’t interrupt and don’t justify – customers want to vent and will only get angrier if you interrupt or make excuses.
- Provide a solution – either replace or fix the issue, or even ask what they would like done – you’ll be surprised as a lot of customers will just say “I just wanted to let you know.”
- Do what you promise – if you need to find out more information to get back to the customer, make sure you do this within the time frame you agreed on.
- Log complaints – then you can work out if the issue is a reoccurring one and if so fix it.
By following these simple steps you can avoid losing customers, and in fact grow your business by finding out what is not working and fixing these issues. Customers who complain but have their issue resolved become more loyal.
Remember – it costs seven times more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one. Professionally dealing with complaints will allow you to hold onto those valuable regular customers who are the lifeblood of every business.
Roger Simpson – CEO, The Retail Solution and Author of “The Retail Solution” 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.