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Think before pressing “send” in reply to a customer complaint

Vulnerable people are frequently left without a resolution to a complaint. They can find it difficult to know how to complain, what route to take, what language to use, and if they don’t get a satisfactory response they will give up more quickly.

This can be a huge problem for companies, whether they realise it or not. We all know that it can cost at least 5 times more to gain a new customer than to retain an existing one. However, how your teams or you handle a complaint, particularly with vulnerable customers, could have unintended consequences. What if, unbeknown to you, the customer has just had a bereavement, has mental health issues, is disabled or is elderly or is vulnerable in a host of other ways? The impact could be more than just you losing a customer.

man sitting on sofa head in closed hands thinking

In the current climate anyone could become vulnerable. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their jobs or are freelancers currently unable to work. Many thousands have developed mental health issues or have suffered a bereavement. This can make them vulnerable.

 

A year ago if you handled a complaint badly it may have just frustrated someone who was able to keep going until it was resolved. For example, if you sent someone from pillar to post (a top common frustration for customers) they may just have got cross and kept going until the matter was resolved. Now, imagine if that person has depression and anxiety difficulties. It takes one of your complaints to a whole new level, doesn’t it? That person is not in a good place and is having to spend more time on something that affects them negatively could have very serious consequences.

Now it is more likely than ever that you may be writing to someone who is vulnerable. 1 in 4 people is thought to have a mental health problem in their lifetime, so think about how this has increased since the pandemic. Add that to the increased number of people who are bereaved and/or suffering with their physical health on top of those already vulnerable.

Write a list of the ways in which someone could be vulnerable.

hand writing in notepad in front of laptopWhen you receive a letter/email, respond as normal. Randomly point to a vulnerability on the list. Now, read through your response and ask yourself some questions about how the recipient may be impacted by each paragraph.

 

With the next letter/email received, stop and think before you reply. Imagine that person is vulnerable, and choose the way in which they are.  Then write and look through again and ask yourself (or colleagues) how the recipient may be impacted by every paragraph.

Trying out a mixture of these methods – and encouraging your teams to do this alongside other activities – will change how you think and respond to complaints over time.

The Complaining Cow free support for businesses

Join the Facebook Group Customer Service: Compassion, Care and  Integrity  A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve complaint handling.

Free download Customer Service: 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals a few tweaks to your customer service can help you reduce risk to reputation, finances and impact on customers and increase sales.

Customer Service how to turn customers into superfans raving about your products/services

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To see how The Complaining Cow can help you improve your customer service see Services.

Categories
Business

3 Complaint handling frustrations & 3 ways to resolve them

How to resolve 3 complaint handling annoyances

I’ve been a consumer champion for a number of years, with thousands of social media and blog followers who regularly tell me what they dislike about customer service and complaint handling! But some of these issues are easily resolved.

man with aglass of milk in home on phone

Not listening to what the issue is

This is obviously a biggie. Whenever I ask my social media followers what is the most important thing that customer service assistants should do when dealing with complaints, this is right up there in the most common answers.

What could/should be done?

It is often flippantly said but it is important to actively listen. Staff need to be trained with ongoing monitoring that they are acknowledging what people are saying and respond appropriately. Empathy needs to be shown and staff need to demonstrate acknowledgement of what they are being told. They should then address what needs to happen to satisfy the customer, agreeing a mutually acceptable outcome.

Fobbing off!

As a consumer champion I probably hear more stories of people being fobbed off than anything else. These are the most common. 7 Common fob offs that companies use to not give refunds! Large store chains are frequently the biggest culprits. Companies try to get away with offering a repair or exchange, rather than a refund for faulty goods. Unless people know their consumer rights the companies often get away with it too. When consumer rights are mentioned, it all changes. For example, I went into a very well-known phone shop to take back a phone that I had had for two years and asked for a free repair or replacement and was refused. I said that under the Consumer Rights Act 2015 items must last a reasonable length of time. The response “Oh, consumer rights, yes we will repair it for free”. The conclusion one draws from this is that anyone who doesn’t know their rights would not have had a free repair.

What could/should be done?

Be honest! It is short sighted to try and fob people off. You may save the cost of one item but you lose goodwill and risk that person later finding out their consumer rights. They can share their story with thousands of others and it will affect your company’s reputation and cause loss of custom. You do not know how many customers you lose because they don’t return. Treat customers right and let them do the word of mouth marketing for you, for free!

How things backfire when you fob off customers

Not giving me what I want!

Well, this is interesting because not all customers know what they want! Or their expectations are too high. So, customers might just want a rant or they might ask for a free holiday because their bed was uncomfortable in the hotel!  Or they aren’t telling you what they want!

What could/should be done?

Staff need to be given lots of role playing in their training! Skills need to be sought and developed in asking the right questions to find out what it is that the customer wants. Customers often have unrealistic expectations because they don’t know what to ask for or what is on offer. So, ensure staff have a number of options available and are empowered to offer them and implement them. Staff can provide two options, for example, making the second one sound much better for the customer, using such phrases like “The other option I can do is…” This is giving some ownership and empowerment to the customer, who is going to like being given a choice.

The Complaining Cow free support for businesses

Join the Facebook Group Customer Service: Compassion, Care and  Integrity  A private group where you can give and get support, advice and share good practice on how to improve complaint handling.

Free download Customer Service: 5 ways to get rave reviews & referrals a few tweaks to your customer service can help you reduce risk to reputation, finances and impact on customers and increase sales.

Customer Service how to turn customers into superfans raving about your products/services

The Complaining Cow Services

To see how The Complaining Cow can help you improve your customer service see Services.