A Quick Course on Lion Taming: How to Turn Customer Complaints into Compliments

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customer complaints

In one of my previous jobs, I had a supervisor who treated every complaint as a personal disaster. Every time an aggressive customer approached us, he was immediately pushing the panic button, turning our call center into a pit of hell.

I can admit that handling customer complaints might look as difficult as taming a lion, but what if complaints aren’t all that bad for your business? What if they can be a source of useful information and opportunity to learn, develop and gain loyal customers?

Here’s how you can turn complaints into compliments.

Customer feedback is gold

Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. Bill Gates

Every time you get an email or a call from an upset customer you wish you hadn’t received, right? And what if I tell you that you should be grateful for every complaint you have on record?

Customers are not keen on sharing their thoughts about your products or services. They will more likely complain with the use of social media sites than contact you directly.

In addition, for every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent! It means that, in fact, you get feedback from only a few dissatisfied customers and the rest will either give you another chance… Or won’t.

Try to think about it this way: someone who is using your product or services tells you where’s a problem. It’s a free information about what goes wrong and what can be improved. It gives you a clue what your customers like and dislike; it also gives you an outside opinion regarding your company.

When you look at it this way, it looks like an opportunity, not a difficult case to deal with, right?

If you’re not convinced yet, consider the following statistics:

  • Resolve a complaint in the customer’s favor and they will do business with you again 70% of the time,
  • Up to 95% of customers will give you a second chance if you handle their complaint successfully and in a timely manner.

Now, if you see how important it is to deal with complaint right, let’s tame that lion together!

Rule one: don’t show your fear

I never thought much of the courage of a lion tamer. Inside the cage he is at least safe from people. George Bernard Shaw

You probably remember that long time ago I was working in a call center and you probably can recall that I was the worst agent ever. I did not receive a proper customer service training, and I had no idea how I should behave when I was called by complete strangers who were yelling at me!

As I had no idea how to handle customer complaints, I was constantly afraid that each next call would be the call from a rude customer.

No one has told me that if an angry person is calling you and you are afraid to face the problem, you won’t be able to understand properly and resolve it.

Sure, handling a customer’s complaint can be tough because in many cases we have to deal with – let’s say it mildly – an upset client. We all know that these situations aren’t pleasant at all, especially if you’re working in a call center and you can’t hide behind the computer screen.

But if you want to turn a customer complaint into a compliment, you need to forget about your fear and face every complaint you have received, no matter how bad you feel about it. If you ignore them, you’ll earn some peace for yourself, but you will lose a customer and miss a chance to transform bad customer experience into a good one.

Rule two: build trust

There is only one way you can build trust with customers: you need to solve their problems and respond to them on time. The most desired situation is to solve a problem immediately, but in most cases it can’t be done as quickly as the customer would want it to. In such cases, you need to make sure that customer is updated on the current stage of the process.

If you’re dealing with a complaint in writing, read it a couple of times to make sure you haven’t missed any information.

If you are talking with a customer on a phone, repeat the problem with your words to make sure there was no miscommunication. It’s a nice way to show to the customer that you understand a problem and you want to solve it.

In both cases briefly explain why the problem happened and express gratitude for feedback:

  • thank a customer for sharing their opinion; try to use “thank you for taking the time to write / call us,”
  • briefly apologize, a short “I’m sorry” should do the trick,
  • try to explain what happened: be clear, precise and don’t try to excuse yourself if you’ve made a mistake,
  • explain what you are going to do and when you’re going to get back to them,
  • when sending an email, make sure that email’s formatting is tidy! Very often emails are just plain sloppy – and that makes company look unprofessional.

Now, when you’ve gained some time for yourself, analyze what happened. If you’ve read my post “4 Steps to Effective Customer Service Problem Solving,” you already know how to do that. Also, you should have been familiar with the following questions:

  1. When did the problem begin?
  2. Has the problem occurred before?
  3. Are all users affected or only one?
  4. Has anyone had this problem before?

These simple questions will help you to troubleshoot and to find out if there is an outage or if a faulty batch of products was sent out by a manufacturer.

Rule three: encouragement

A customer who contacted you to point out what is wrong deserves to be rewarded.

Why?

Because they’ve had expectations towards your product or services and are disappointed now. Because they’ve took their time to share their thoughts about your product or service with you. And because you want to turn that bloody complaint into a compliment.

So, you have already thanked them for reaching you out, right? Do that once again. Make your customer feel good about giving you the opportunity to put things right.

Another way to please an unhappy customer it to offer a replacement (in reasonable cases, of course). All people love presents and if you feel that this customer can be saved, offer them one!

It may sound expensive, but think about it this way: losing even a single customer can be very costly. It might be 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.

If you handle complains right, your customers might not only give you a second chance; they will also be more likely to recommend your business to others. And believe me, word of mouth is the best advertisement you can imagine.

Customer complaints compliments

No matter how great your product is and how customer-focused you are, one day you will have to face the beast – a complaining customer. Luckily, now you know how to tame that beast.

You know that instead of showing your fear and avoiding confrontation, you need to become the master of the situation. And you know that customers who have had a complaint satisfactorily resolved are likely to recommend your business to others and stay with you as loyal customers.

Once you treat the complaint as an opportunity to learn and show that you care about customers, the complaint has a chance to be a story of a bad experience that turned out to be positive. And, as a final result, it will strengthen the customer relationship with your brand.

Now, the lion is tamed.

Cover photo courtesy via Wikimedia Commons.

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