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Dale Carnegie sales expert John Rodgers explained to attendees at 2013 ILCT how to turn customer complaints around to your advantage.
The Situation: You walk into your office and are hit with multiple messages from the same customers asking to speak to the owner about the problem they had over the weekend.
Your Response: Like most of us, our first thought would be dread. What went wrong when I wasn’t here to deal with it and why do I always get hit with these things the minute I walk into the office?
Let’s face it — we all screw up once in a while. We try to minimize the mistakes but they still occur. How you handle the customer when you err can net you increased loyalty from that customer. No, this article is not encouraging you to mess up, but if you do, embrace complaints and turn them around to earn a loyal customer. First, you will need to step out of your comfort zone. At the International LCT Show in Las Vegas, John Rodgers, a Dale Carnegie Trainer, presented “Driving Customer Loyalty Through Complaint Resolution.” Rodgers explained that there are two parts to handling complaints: the emotional and the practical. Often those handling complaints will deal with one or the other but not both. How we react to a complaint will drive the customer’s reaction. You must first handle the emotional part of the complaint before you deal with the practical aspects.
“I can’t believe it. We would never do anything like that!” Halt! Take a breath. Count to 10 and start thinking differently. Often when you speak to the customer, he has had more time than you to prepare for the conversation. When you walked in on Monday morning, you just got hit with it, but the event may have happened Friday night. We can’t always anticipate the event but we can control how we react, Rodgers says. Remember that most customers never say anything; they just go away. If they are calling to complain, you haven’t lost them — yet! Start with thanking them for calling, Rodgers says. If they didn’t call to complain, they would already be gone. Rodgers suggests working toward a win/win solution which strengthens the relationship every time.
Why do customers complain? Because their expectations were not met. Rodgers equated a complaining customer to a balloon that you want to deflate. When the balloon is full, the customer is in the “I hate you mode.” When it is empty, he is in the “I love you” mode. Your goal is to move the ones who are inflated toward the deflated side. Every complainer is somewhere along this scale, he says.
Methods to Reduce Stress in Resolving Complaints
First, take 100% responsibility, Rodgers says. He used the analogy of a potential son-in-law who tells the dad when asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage that he will give 94% and 80% when times get bad. Of course, he isn’t the guy for his daughter. If you are not committed fully to taking responsibility, your client will know it. The biggest challenge here is that you aren’t going to want to do this, but you need to, Rodgers says. Needs and wants do not always align.