How to respond effectively to complaints

Complaints are an unfortunate part of running a business, but they do happen. No matter how hard you work to please your clients, eventually someone will have something negative to say. However, with the right approach, you can turn complaints into a useful tool to strengthen your business.

Here are 6 tips to effectively responding to complaints:

1. Remember that this is not an argument

The reason that a client complains is disappointment. It’s a symptom of a need that wasn’t met. They are not looking to fight with you. In fact, taking the time to complain signals that they wish to continue the relationship. Don’t muck it up by getting into a defensive, back and forth argument. Nobody wins in that scenario.

Your customer is actually giving you an opportunity to continue working together. It’s tough to keep cool when someone comes in hot with a complaint, but remember: feedback is a gift. It just may not feel like it in the moment.

2. Listen

The key here is to put explanations aside. Listen until the client has said everything on their mind. Don’t start thinking of how to respond while they are still speaking – they’ll see your eyes glaze over the moment you do, and that will make matters worse. If it’s a written complaint, read it over a few times to make sure you’re not inserting a tone or accusation that may not actually be there.

You want and need to understand the complaint. Without this information, you can’t move forward in any meaningful way. The moment for explanations and solutions will come. Take this time to really set everything else aside and just listen.

3. Repeat what you heard

It’s important to give the information back to the customer to make sure you’re on the same page. A lot can get lost in translation, so to let them know that you hear them. Make sure that you understand the complaint by saying it back in your own words.

This lets both of you know that you hear and understand the problem. Once they acknowledge that you’ve got it right, you’ll be able to get to a solution.

4. Acknowledge

Forget for a moment that you’re defending your business or firm. Try to imagine how it would feel to be the one making the complaint. You should be able to identify what need wasn’t met, or how you disappointed them.

When you put yourself in their shoes, it becomes clear what solution you would expect. You will also be able to see where you fell short, and how you can avoid doing that to others going forward.

5. Offer a solution

After the work you’ve done to understand the problem, finding a solution will be the easiest part. You know what you’d expect as a customer, and you know what you’re able to offer as a business. Putting this information together will create a solution that makes both parties feel good.

Let them know sincerely that you want to make it right. This is your business after all, and reviews spread a lot faster and further when they’re negative. But, when a business goes out of their way to fix a problem, people let others know about it with enthusiasm.

6. Follow up

This may be the most critical step, and it’s also often overlooked. After some time, follow up personally. This shows your client that you care about the ultimate outcome, and that you want to make sure that they’re doing well with the solution.

It doesn’t take long, but the effort goes a long way. They will remember the time and attention you put into making sure they were satisfied. They will also be likely to come back with more business and refer you to others.

Nobody likes to see a complaint come in at their business. We all work so hard to make sure we’re providing a valuable service that is truly helpful, and knowing that we let someone down can be hard. However, take it as an opportunity to become even better, and you’ll find that your business continues to grow.

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