It is human nature at times to complain. Just as we cried as little babies to attract attention in order to have our needs met, so we continue to make various degrees of noise as adults for the same end.
In recent times there have been some interesting approaches and attitudes to the issue of complaints in the business environment emerging which warrant some discussion.
As businesses we are in service to our customers. Just as we graciously accept a compliment, there is much to be said for approaching complaints with a touch of grace.
There are many articles written on the types of “complainers” and often many are not very complimentary. If we consider that a complaint can be used in positive ways to help us keep our finger on the pulse of our business products or services then we can embrace them and actually often use them to our advantage.
People complain when they perceive that they have not obtained the desired result or value from a particular experience. Sometimes a complaint arises simply because the person has had a really bad day and whatever just happened was their “last straw”. Ensuring we provide an empathetic response can often quickly diffuse a situation. Sometimes customers will provide “helpful advice” in order to try and persuade a business to make improvements. Those who provide such positive complaints should be embraced as they are already loyal. Complaints in the form of helpful advice generally come from customers who have a high level of trust, so acknowledging their advice is vital.
Some businesses react quickly and negatively to any complaints, and become quite defensive. This type of reaction often can cause more issues. An example observed recently was in regards to a facebook group discussion about a software upgrade for an online product. A customer asked a question, worded not particularly well about support for the older product. The owner jumped in immediately on the defense and the reaction was a bit over the top. The customer was obviously taken aback and was very apologetic and pointed out they actually had complimented the product. A different person may have taken greater offence and escalated the issue when feeling “attacked”.
As business owners/managers in service to our clients, it is important to make allowances for our customers and clients to ask questions or query our services. A simple reply to say “no problem, support will be provided” would have been enough in this example, rather than a rant. What this kind of reaction can do is cloud the judgement of others reading on, and may contribute to the loss of trust. If a person is attacked for asking a question, then it is unsettling for others also.
Embrace your questions and before you respond, ensure that you have understood the nature of the question or complaint. Not all questions are complaints just as complaints are often not framed as a question! Remember that a complaint does not necessarily mean anything is wrong at all!
Overly cheerful response
Nothing can push an already disgruntled person into anger than the impression that their complaint is being dealt with in a condesending manner.
Being all too happy can make it appear that you are not taking the matter seriously. Be polite and professional and don’t shift blame in an apology by saying things like “I’m sorry you have had that experience, none of our other customers have complained”. This is a passive aggressive response and can cause an issue to escalate. Apologise and then offer to help or a solution.
Use complaints as a learning experience
Much can be gained from taking onboard complaints and using them to hone and develop your business or product to help take it to the next level. Try and unpack the cause of the complaint and often you will find insightful gems which you can use to add further value.
Make sure you involve all staff who may be involved in handling complaints, including those managing online platforms. Having a consistent approach to complaints with a clear line of escalation can help to minimise damage caused.
Top Tips for Handling online complaints
- Listen and seek understanding
- Relay the complaint back to show you understand
- Try and remain objective
- Be respectful
- Even if someone is unreasonable, apologise but dont shift blame.
- Take the matter offline as soon as you can
- Confirm they are satisified with a solution
- Invite them to leave positive feedback when a situtation has been resolved.
- Make sure your staff are trained in complaint management or know how to clearly handle the complaint and quickly pass onto the right person.
- Never be dismissive of a complaint.
We hope you have found this post beneficial and we welcome your comments below.
You are welcome to follow our company page https://www.linkedin.com/company/irespectonline or join us on twitter @irespectonline
Fiona Lucas is the founder of iRespectOnline. She is passionate about helping small businesses to grow, thrive and build reputation online. Fiona is an ethical marketer providing bespoke online marketing strategies to enable businesses to leverage social media for growth. Underpinning everything she does, as Australia’s first online reputation evangelist she is passionate about driving social change towards a more respectful online environment.
She was named in Mamamia’s Top 50 women to watch online 2013, Finalist Geelong Small Business Awards 2017 – Social Media Influencer and is a virtual community manager for Social Media Marketing World. Fiona presents on digital futures, cybersafety and digital marketing.
Fiona is the author of Futureproof Your Kids – a parents guide to the social media playground.