Updated: July 29, 2018

Customer feedback is an essential part of doing business. Feedback (both positive and negative) can help gather valuable insight — it allows companies to identify successes and failures. In fact, some business consultants urge companies to view customer complaints as a gift because complaints can show areas of weakness that employees and/or management can work to fix.

A complaint is “an expression of dissatisfaction on a consumer’s behalf to a responsible party”.

But let’s face it, customer complaints sting — they can totally take the wind out of a small business owner’s sails if there is not a plan in place for addressing them.

How complaints are handled is a critical component to the longevity of a business because complaints, especially public ones, are forever tied to their brand and reputation.

In this digital age, where people can publicly report grievances, leave bad reviews on sites like Yelp or Facebook, and even share recordings of their experience, it’s imperative to be professional and ready to respond or remedy any situation.

Here are four tips for managing customer complaints:

  • Empower employees. Customers want to talk with a competent and friendly representative who can make decisions. Make sure the person handling complaints for your business is polite and a problem solver by nature–then empower them to do their job. Train staff to handle customer complaints professionally so they have the confidence to do so.
  • Listen. Acknowledging the complaint is the first step to handling it effectively. Gather all the facts and respond fairly (and consistently). Set up a system for logging and tracking complaints as they come in then use that system to watch for patterns.
  • Offer a solution. Remedy the situation with what works best for both parties—aim to create a win-win situation. If handled right, the complaining consumer may even turn into a brand advocate for your business!
  • Hire a public relations pro. Sometimes business owners and managers have a hard time not taking complaints personally. Working with a PR consultant to establish a plan for managing customer complaints can help—a good one will be able to craft messages that are not impulsive or emotionally triggered.

Management of complaints is an essential part of delivering great customer service and solidifying a company’s reputation. When done properly there will be opportunities to learn and grow. See, complaints aren’t always a bad thing!

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