Customer Issue Management in 5 steps

How to Manage Customer Issues Effectively

Customer Complaints

No one likes dealing with customer complaints, but how you handle them is a critical to the longevity and success of your business.

We have compiled a 5-step process to guide you through these uncomfortable moments with grace and success.

  1. Understand, Apologise, Sympathise

When a customer is angry it is often difficult to decipher what the problem is. But before you jump in with questions it is essential that you let the customer finish what they want to say.

Although it can be difficult, it is crucial that you don’t become defensive, remember, the customer isn’t attacking you personally. Remember to apologise. When a customer senses you are sincerely sorry, it defuses the situation.

Practise active listening, repeat back what you are hearing to show you are paying attention and check your understanding. Empathise with the customer, try and consider why the customer might be upset and put yourself in their shoes with phrases such as ‘I can see how that would be frustrating,’ or ‘That isn’t the service experience we aim for’.

  1. Identify the problem

Now you have the basic idea of what the problem is, it is time to ask the right questions. Asking open-ended questions will encourage the customer to talk freely. Starting with the basic questions: Why? What? When? Where? How? Customers want to see they stand to benefit from answering your questions; they don’t want to feel like they are being interrogated.

From here on out the customer should be handled by one member of staff who has the authority to deal with the situation. Once you have established the problem, it’s time to fix it!

  1. Offer a solution

The best and easiest way to solve customer complaints is to ask the customer how they want the problem to be fixed. A lot of people avoid this tactic because they fear the customer will demand too much from them, but you can always so no or make a counter offer. Alternatively, give the customer 2 or more options with phrases such as ‘How about…’ or ‘What if we …’. These phrases sound like you are offering the customer a customised solution.

If you can’t give them the solution they ask for, focus on what you can do rather than can’t do, such as ‘What we can do is….’.

Remember – never make a promise you can’t keep!

  1. Execute the solution – Quickly!

Customers become dissatisfied when their complaint is not settled as soon as possible. When complaints are moved up the chain of command they become misunderstood, time consuming and only add to the customer’s annoyance. Once you have finished talking with the customer get to executing the solution straight away (ideally that day), whether that be a refund, an exchange or something else.

Manage their expectations. If you can’t get a response to them until the next day, say we will be in touch tomorrow with an update. Provide regular updates on your progress or lack of.

  1. Follow Up

Now you have implemented the solution it’s time to go above and beyond what is reasonably expected. Consider giving the customer 10% off their next purchase or offering free delivery. Call them in a week’s time to see if they are happy with the outcome of the complaint. By doing this you may potentially turn this customer into a free ambassador for your brand. After all, word of mouth is one of the most valuable types of advertising.

So remember, a complaint can be a positive experience for both the customer and the business if handled correctly. We hope you use these 5 steps to turn a potentially negative experience for your customers into a positive one.

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Elizabeth Delaney

I love turning my knowledge into real world strategies for real world people. I'm a huge advocate for small business. l want to help you work smarter, not harder, so you have time to focus on what is important to you.