As it appeared in the Daily Nation on April 9th 2019
by Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Does your business receive customers’ complaints? As much as smart businesses work extremely hard to prevent customer dissatisfaction, complaints crop up. Most times, complaints result from the staff dropping the ball deliberately or accidentally. There are also customers who are simply not satisfied with our products or services because they expected more. In addition, a few customers present difficult situations in every business. Though we may want to stand by the saying “to err is human” the truth is that majority of complaints can be averted. Customers’ complaints are expensive; what is your business doing to reduce the number of complaints?
Most complaints emanate from promises made but not kept. We promise to deliver, we do not; we promise to call back, we do not. Complaints also result when we do not keep our customers fully informed or when we give them contradicting information. Customer complaints can be averted if we put customers first and do what we said we would do. Companies that are intentional about providing a delightful end-to-end customer experience receive fewer complaints and take any complaint received with the seriousness required.
The management of customer complaints is critical for every business. Complaints management starts by identifying potential customer pain points and taking action to eliminate the pain. Management of complaints requires a well thought out process on what to do in case of a customer dissatisfaction. The process should also define the escalation levels depending on nature and gravity of complaint. Unfortunately, in most business, customer complaints are mishandled. Many customer complaints are blown out of proportion by mishandling. The cost of mishandled customer complaints is high. A mishandled complaint may result to loss of customer and cause a deep dent in the company’s reputation. To repair reputation, it could take years and millions of shillings in public relations gimmicks and marketing efforts. Mishandled complaints result to a waste of management time. Customers prefer their complaints to be handled by the first person they contact. Frontline staff should therefore be empowered and well guided to professionally handle complaints.
Today, some dissatisfied customers are turning to social media to complain, for redress or to attract public attention. Most serious complaints find their way into social media because they were not addressed adequately offline. If your company is on social media, you need guidelines for handling a complaint shared on social media. Social media complaints require handling with care. It is not enough to ask the customer to check their DM, to DM you their telephone number or to post the company’s statement on serious complaints. When a customer expresses dissatisfaction via social media, it is important to handle it proficiently and swiftly. Here are a few things to consider; immediately acknowledge receipt of the complaint, contact the customer directly, listen to the customer and gather more information, make an apology, keep the customer informed, provide the public with updates on the same platform and resolve the issue as fast as you can.
Complaints can be a great source of learning as Bill Gates once stated, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. Customer complaints also present an opportunity to cement customer trust. No promise of discounts, refunds or freebies can surpass the handling of a complaint in a sincere and professional manner. What happens when your business receives a customer’s complaint? Do you have a complaints management policy and procedure?
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy