Seven Easy Steps to Handling Customer Service Issues Gracefully

Remember that saying, "always be kind. Everyone is fighting a hard battle."  We think it holds true in all situations in life—including business. Sometimes, conflicts arise for one reason or another and it can be challenging to spin a rough turn of events into a workable and mutually satisfying experience. When you think about it, a customer complaint is actually a marvelous opportunity to turn a previously disappointed customer into an advocate for your brand!  Here's how it's done.

Lots of times, a customer might not even bother to complain to you. Instead, they decide to take their business elsewhere, all the while telling their friends how dissatisfied they were with you. In that sense, you're lucky to receive a complaint because you get a chance to turn it around!

Your ability to handle complaints well can win the hearts of your customers who will go out into the world singing your praises. Here are some of the things we have learned over the years by talking to folks from all kinds of industries about how they handle things when life inevitably presents a challenge.

  1. Thank your customer for complaining. They could have just walked away angry, but they took the time to tell you what the problem was. Think of this as a gift.
  2. Listen to the complaint carefully and never get defensive. The customer isn't attacking you personally (we hope). They're just expressing their disappointment, so be kind, listen and repeat back what they're saying so they know they've been heard and that you respect them. There are some professional complainers out there, but it's still your job to treat them with respect and let them get their point across.
  3. Put yourself in their position. As a business owner, your goal is to fix the issue and not get into an argument with your customer. It's important for them to understand that you are on their side and you care about their happiness.
  4. Say you're sorry. Always apologize when you are wrong and never place blame. Problems happen, we are all human beings and we all make a mistake sometimes. Even if there's been some horrible, blatant gaff and it's the customer's fault, suck it up and say you're sorry it happened.
  5. Work on a solution together. Whether or not the customer knows what solutions might be possible, ask anyway. They might know exactly how to fix it. If not, propose something and become partners in resolving the problem.
  6. Fix the problem on the double!  When folks are having an issue, they want it resolved—stat!  Do it. Complaints should always be moved up to #1 priority status before the customer's frustration level rises.
  7. Train your team. Your entire team needs to know how to handle problems quickly, politely and effectively. They are your representatives and it's up to everyone on the team to share the same values when it comes to great service and conflict resolution. 

Regardless of what industry you're in, there are always going to be some complaints. There's just no getting around it. What is it they say?  "You can please some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all of the time."  This is certainly true when it comes to handling customers. Luckily, you do have the ability to turn disappointment into delight and start a long lasting relationship based on trust and mutual respect.

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