Dealing With Customer Complaints

The Customer is always right!  There are occasions when the customer is right, however there are also times when the customer is not entirely right or when their behavior in making a complaint is such that they need to be appropriately challenged so that the substantive issue is dealt with.

Tactics for Dealing with Customer Complaints

When dealing with customer complaints, mangers can use tactics based on a five-category scheme called conflict-handling modes: competing, compromising, collaborating, accommodating and avoiding.

Handling Customer Complaints

Competing: (It has been decided that enough is enough, if the customer sues, you’ll meet them in court)

  • Repeat what you have said
  • Remind them that they can have their goods back
  • Warn the customer that you will not continue the conversation if they become abusive
  • Note what is said (possibly need to use in court)
  • Keep calm yourself and remain professional
  • Recognize when the conversation has gone on long enough and terminate it appropriately

Compromising: (The system has not performed to the stated standard and you have a desperate customer)

  • Apologise for the situation and reassure the customer that you’ll deal with it
  • Offer to deliver the goods by express courier at the company’s expense
  • Arrange to telephone the customer the next day to check delivery has been completed satisfactorily

Collaborating: (Your company isn’t at fault, the customer has chosen the wrong product, you need to find out how to progress to an agreeable solution)

  • Listen to the customer – what do they need from the product
  • Prepare to swap products if you can do
  • If no other product is appropriate as the customer how they want to proceed
  • Agree on what happens to the unwanted product – refund, exchange or let the customer keep it.

Accommodating: (The customer has had poor service and you want to ensure they remain as satisfied as possible)

  • Acknowledge the failings and apologise
  • Avoid trying to justify the situation, there is no justification for poor service
  • Make a gesture – reduce the bill or offer a discount next time to show some sort of recognition of the situation

Avoiding: (It is not possible to get the customer into a private space)

  • Ensure other customers do not witness conflict between staff and this customer
  • Try to state slowly and clearly the situation and what you are proposing
  • Consider varying your tactics depending on gender difference
  • Consider varying your tactics depending on other staff that are present
  • Vary your tactics according to company policy
  • Offer a refund on condition customer doesn’t revisit the problem
  • Invite the customer back to sort out situation
  • Try to persuade customer to go to a meeting room or office

Read More: Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI)

Factors you should take into account when Dealing with a Customer Complaint

  • Past history with the customer
  • Organisational policy
  • Level at which you can make decisions
  • Immediate or anticipated future business or losses
  • Whether this would set a precedent
  • Whether other customers will witness what is going on
  • Whether the customer can be isolated from other customers if necessary
  • Support available and it’s reliability

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