Complaints are an opportunity to delight a customer and correct problems that might be causing silent complainers and bad reviews online. If you can make it easy for customers to complain and you’ll be able to correct problems before you develop a reputation for bad service. A Customer Satisfaction Score (CSS) is one way to monitor external customer satisfaction. Using surveys and feedback forms will help you to determine this score. If it is low, you can take action to improve it.
Ideally, the same complaint should only occur once because once it has arisen its cause should be eliminated by:
Eliminating product and service defects
Improving customer service behaviour
Setting higher performance standards
Focusing the organisation more on customers’ needs
When customers have their complaints resolved satisfactorily, they tend to become more loyal long-term customers than people who have not had cause to complain. The reason is simple: they are won over by the care and attention given to their complaint.
Often organisations have their first chance to show a customer their exceptional care when they handle a complaint, and customers are impressed at how this contrasts with the indifference and hostility they find at other companies.
Most customers who have a complaint about something your organisation has done, or failed to do, simply want the matter put right.
In the case of a purchase that has in some way gone wrong, they also want the reassurance that they did not make a bad decision in the first place. Most customers only become irritated, angry or even abusive when their initial attempts to get the matter put right have led them nowhere.
Often, you can choose to deliver service face to face, by phone, by email, by post, or on social media.
The best channel to use is usually:
The most convenient for the customer - if you’re initiating contact, ask each customer how they prefer to be contacted, and use their preference;
The channel the customer used to contact you - Reply to a letter with a letter, an email with an email, and a phone message with a phone call;
Don’t get locked into using one communication channel if it is no longer the best way to deal with a particular enquiry, though:
If you need to discuss a lengthy report, email might be best so that you can insert comments in the report
If you need to discuss something which customers feel strongly about, it’s better to arrange to meet them or to speak to them
You can only change the channel with the customer’s consent, so ask if they mind, and explain how you can serve them better using a different channel.
Follow guidelines set down in the Consumer Rights Act 2015
The Consumer Rights Act and Implications
The Consumer Rights Act came into force on 1st October 2015, as part of the Government’s reform of the UK’s consumer landscape which aims to make it easier for consumers to understand and access their key rights, including:
the right to clear and honest information before you buy;
the right to get what you pay for;
the right to goods and digital content being fit for purpose, and services being performed with reasonable care and skill; and
the right that faults in what you buy will be put right free of charge or a refund or replacement provided
The law covers:
what should happen when goods are faulty;
what should happen when digital content is faulty;
how services should match up to what has been agreed, and what should happen when they do not, or when they are not provided with reasonable care and skill;
unfair terms in a contract;
what happens when a business is acting in a way which isn’t competitive;
written notice for routine inspections by public enforcers, such as Trading Standards; and,
greater flexibility for public enforcers, such as Trading Standards, to respond to breaches of consumer law, such as seeking redress for consumers who have suffered harm.
This means that any organisation or trader supplying goods, services or digital content and businesses in the transport and logistics sector should note the following clauses:
Contractual Status of Information – statements made by or on behalf of a service provider to a consumer, will now form part of the contract if they are taken into account by the consumer, when deciding whether to enter into the contract, or when making decisions in relation to the service, after entering into the contract. So if the contract stated delivery will be made the next day, this has to happen!
Fairness Requirements – where terms in a consumer contract are deemed unfair, they may not bind the consumer. The existing “fairness test” is retained in the Act, but terms relating to the price and contract subject matter will only be exempt if they are both transparent and prominent, i.e. in plain language, intelligible and brought to the consumer’s attention.
New Statutory Remedies – where a service fails to conform to the contract, consumers may now require repeat performance or, if this is impossible, a price reduction. As an example, businesses in the transport and logistics sectors must ensure that the terms and conditions set out on websites and in other marketing material comply with the Act, and that both staff and third party agents are aware of the new rights and remedies available to consumers.
It is always better to handle complaints, rather than a customer having to revert to legalities. Here is a process which will handle complaints.
Customer Services Activity
This activity looks at a 7 step process to help people manage customers effectively, especially if there are complaints and they are upset, annoyed or frustrated.
This is called TACTICS
I will put this right
Check that the customer is happy
By working through the seven steps, you will gain an understanding of why each part of the process is valuable, and then you can practice and write your answers, or role-play with a partner if that works better for you.
You need to create immediate rapport with the customer and there is no better way than thanking a customer for bringing the issue to your attention. You are laying positive foundations for the rest of the conversation. Use your own words; it will appear more natural and not contrived. An alternative is to explain you did not know about the issue, but now you are aware.
By apologising you are communicating with the customer that you genuinely wish the situation had not happened to them. This instills confidence that you are prepared to do something to put it right. You are not taking responsibility for what has happened, but you are stating you are sorry it has happened!
Collect the Information
You need the customer’s help in gathering the relevant information. Ask them only what is necessary. However, ensure that you ask for enough information or you will have to call back, or ask them to explain further, and this will delay the resolution.
The most important thing to do at this stage is to LISTEN to the customer! Customers will probably be giving you more information than you need to know, so pay attention and listen.
The customer also may be EMOTIONAL. Whatever you do or say, do not ask the customer to calm down, this will have the opposite effect and may even wind up the customer!
Ask a mix of open and closed questions. Take careful, legible notes. This lets the customer know you are taking the matter seriously and that you will have all the relevant information to hand. This also provides a written record, should you need to refer back to the situation at any time.
Quite simply do whatever you need to do to put the situation right and promptly. A sense of urgency will be appreciated by the customer as it will let them know that you value them and are treating their complaint seriously.
Always tell the customer what action you propose to take. Do not under-promise or over-deliver! Give timescales and be realistic. When writing, be clear of timescales for replies and the steps you are taking.
I will put this right
“I” is an extremely assertive word and subconsciously sends a message to the customer that everything is being taken care of. You should give the customer your name and telephone number in case they need to contact you in the future.
Check that the customer is happy.
Ask the customer directly if they are satisfied with what you did for them.
If you can call and ask them a few days later, this could reap huge dividends in relation to customer loyalty and reputation management. Remember that customers will spread the word about their negative experiences via Facebook pages, or on twitter, causing an immediate awareness of the situation.
Ensure that the details are recorded
Appropriate action is taken
Compensation awarded if necessary, or issue is escalated to someone who can make that decision – but be clear that you will do that and explain the timescales.
Consider sending a letter or email to the customer confirming the next steps or the resolution decided.
Make the complaint known so that others can learn from it.