Operations

How To Handle Limo Customer Complaints

Linda Jagiela
Posted on April 22, 2013
Dale Carnegie sales expert John Rodgers explained to attendees at 2013 ILCT how to turn customer complaints around to your advantage.

Dale Carnegie sales expert John Rodgers explained to attendees at 2013 ILCT how to turn customer complaints around to your advantage.

Dale Carnegie sales expert John Rodgers explained to attendees at 2013 ILCT how to turn customer complaints around to your advantage.
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.

The Process

Rodgers gave the following guidelines when dealing with complaints:

  • Avoid citing guidelines and policies. No one wants to hear what the policy manual says.
  • Create an opportunity to be a hero. You are going to fix the problem. You have the ability.
  • Treat the disease not the symptom. Respond to the person not the complaint.
  • Don’t take it personal. As humans, we tend to react instead of respond. When you respond, you are proactive. But when you react, you are reactive.
  • Use the customer’s name but don’t over use it.
  • Listen closely and respect your customer’s point of view. Although you might want to say, “You’re wrong,” you will not get far. Rodgers called this a sure way to inflate that balloon. He suggests asking more questions, even ones you know the answers to. He says that the more the customers talk, the more air goes out of that balloon.
  • Voice your appreciation. Tell the complainer you are glad to be hearing about it.
  • If you are wrong, be quick and firm to admit fault. A good way to disarm someone is to say, “I was late. I blew it.” An admission is much stronger than an apology.
  • Get the other person to say “Yes, yes” immediately. Rodgers wants you to change the attitude of dread to “Yahoo!” He suggests doing this by asking the question, “Did we do anything right?”
  • Here is the hardest one for limousine owners: We are so used to selling ourselves and our service that we will trip over this. “Shut up!” says Rodgers. “Let the client do the greatest part of the talking.” He used a great acronym to keep this in the front of your mind. WAIT = Why am I talking? The more the customer talks, the more he shares. You cannot closely listen if you are talking.
  • Ask leading questions such as, “What can I do to make you happy?” This makes the customer feel that the idea is his. If the response is reasonable, then do it.
  • Try to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  • Sympathize with the other person’s ideas and desires: “If I had the same circumstance, I would feel the same way.” This will tell the person that you get it.
  • Finally, appeal to nobler motives. “How can we make this right?”
  • If you don’t have an answer to the problem, give them a reasonable timetable. For example, “I will call you tomorrow at three and let you know how I made out getting you that answer. The key is making that call at three tomorrow.”

Nothing Personal

We all have a tendency to take things personally, Rodgers says. This isn’t about you. People have bad days and have lives outside of the complaint. You don’t know what those things are. He cited that 70% of the people you deal with have had a personal tragedy in the recent past. Make dealing with the person the first part of how you handle the complaint, then deal with the issue.

By employing these techniques you will be able to quickly reach a win/win situation. When everyone wins, you build stronger relationships and keep loyal customers.

Related Topics: client feedback, customer service, How To, ILCT 2013, industry education

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