How You Resolve Complaints Defines Your Business

Jim Luff
Posted on January 18, 2017

(Original photo via Flickr.com licensed under Creative Commons Attribution by joelogon)
(Original photo via Flickr.com licensed under Creative Commons Attribution by joelogon)
How you handle a complaint can truly define your business. It will make a difference in whether you ever provide service for the complaining customer in the future.

It could possibly influence a bad review on social media sites such as Yelp, Google+, or Facebook. It could cause a public rebuke on the customer’s personal social media page. That might not be bad if the person has less than 300 friends. But I have more than 2,300 friends who will read my smackdown of your business. The customer also could go to the mainstream media.

Many local TV news programs have features such as, “Eyewitness News on Your Side.” They would love to share a story about how you ruined a wedding. There are complaints with the Better Business Bureau, small claims court filings, and other similar things that can sully your good business name over an isolated incident.
Therefore, if you have someone call you with a complaint, you better not dismiss it. To come out on top and unscathed, your best bet is to genuinely listen to the complaint and react accordingly.

Once the complaint has been voiced, your next action is to apologize for it. That’s Step #1. Don’t argue. Don’t try to justify. Don’t make excuses. If someone complains about it from his or her point of view, then that point of view is the only one that matters. The complainant called for a resolution, not to hear your position. I’m not saying there are not two sides to every story. I’m saying let them complain and get it off their chests.

Once you have apologized, simply ask, “How can I make this right”? It generally takes the wind out of someone’s sail. Whatever they ask for, if it is within reason, make it happen. If the customer wants a complete refund, and if it's reasonable, DO IT! If it's unreasonable, make an offer of your own.

I always like to throw a bonus in. Let’s say the complaint was - the limo was late for a pickup. The customer wants a $50 credit for making them late to an event. I would issue the credit and tell the client I am also sending them a gift card for two hours of future service. I tell them I want an opportunity to show this was an isolated incident so I will put my money where my mouth is and ask for a second chance, on the house.

It tends to leave people a little stunned. By doing this, you ensure if they do go and spout off on social media about errors, the story must end with, “And, to make it right, they gave me a two-hour gift card for the future.” That’s a positive ending to a bad situation.

Related Topics: client feedback, customer service, Jim Luff, Shop Talk blog

Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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