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How to Handle Consumer Complaints

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Customer loyalty can be elusive, but it is imperative to running a successful business. In today’s hyper-digital world, there are myriad online forums that welcome venting and complaining. With the click of a button, an unhappy client could send your company or its sales into a tailspin. “Don’t underestimate the power of a disgruntled customer,” says Rebecca Morgan, an executive advisor and customer-service expert who authored Calming Upset Customers. “They wreak havoc in your organization because [complaints] upset everybody and, with these tools of Twitter and Facebook and Yelp, they can get the word out quickly.”

In truth, the customer isn’t always right, and it’s tempting to engage in heated arguments, especially when it comes to defending your business, employees, and even yourself. But if customer retention is the end goal, listening intently and sticking with a calm, collected approach will help troubleshoot even the toughest complaint. Customer feedback is a “gift,” says Ann Thomas, a senior consultant at Performance Research Associates, a consulting firm in South Bloomington, Minnesota, that deals with customer service-related issues. “I can’t fix the problem unless I know about it.”

How should you proceed once a complaint is brought to your attention depends largely on the nature of the customer’s complaint – and the severity with which it is brought.

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