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.


Three consumer pet hates and how to resolve them proactively

Customer service and complaint handling pet hates

Having been a consumer champion for a number of years, I have the ear of thousands of people who delight in telling me their pet hates with customer service and complaint handling.

Today I’m going to start a series of posts about these frustrations and how they should be addressed, to improve service and therefore customer loyalty, company reputation and sales.

row of shops

1) Staff who don’t pay attention to the right things at the right time!

When customers are being served by customer service assistants, they don’t want to be ignored. Acknowledging they are even there at the till is a good start! I hear many times that it really annoys people that assistants are talking to each other when serving them, in so many different stores, shows the problem is widespread.

Of course it goes both ways, as I know some customers are downright rude when they remain on their phones as they approach the tills. But for those who aren’t it is just simple courtesy to say “Hello” or “Thank you” or “Good bye”. Even for people, such as myself, who do NOT want to engage in conversation with assistants, I do not expect to be ignored. It’s just a matter of basic manners.

What can you do to ensure staff pay attention?

When you recruit, test each candidate’s manners! For example are they saying “Please” and “Thank you” when they are offered them a glass of water? Whether someone has manners is usually demonstrated, rather than by the answer to a question. All is not lost though, simple manners can be taught! Or, at the very least, they can be expected as part of a staff member’s employment. Make it a condition of work that staff are attentive (but see point 2 below!) so that they are not talking to colleagues when they are serving customers. Some quick role plays, videos on expectations, information on the company, and part of ongoing monitoring by management.

When customer service staff don't pay attention to customers

2) Pouncing staff!

This is one my particular pet hates! Staff who ask if they can help as soon as a customer is through the door. I don’t know anyone who likes this. Even my mother, who will happily chat to anyone, doesn’t want to be pounced on as on as she walks through the door. Most people are there to browse. In stores where this happens, it is clearly a company policy where someone has told staff to do this, with no understanding of how it makes customers feel.

What can you do to stop pouncing on customers?

Stop the practice! If you are expecting your staff to ask someone if they can help, as they come through the door, just stop it! Instead, please train your staff to hold back and ascertain whether it looks like the person is looking for help, or is standing still looking around for something. If they are talking to their friend whilst walking around the shop casting their eyes over clothes, leave them alone! A good sales assistant can read people’s body language, understanding when people want help and when they don’t. These people are a great asset to your company. Test for this skill at recruitment and empower your staff to make the appropriate decisions for themselves.

Consumers' customer experience frustration

3) Staff who don’t answer the question!

Many times I have asked a simple question to a company in an email and not received an answer. Companies often think that all they have to do is give a refund. When a customer asks a question it is usually because they want to know the answer! Often this is so that they can be sure that the problem will not recur, for themselves or for others.

What can you do to make sure staff are answering the questions?

Answer the question! If someone asks you what you are going to do to make sure something doesn’t happen again when they use your service, give them the answer. Don’t just say “This is not our usual standard and we can assure you that it will not happen again”. That is NOT an assurance! Telling them what you are putting into place to improve the situation is what customers are looking for. This kind of response means that the customer knows you have listened and have correctly carried out the necessary change for improvement.

When customer service assistants don't answer the question

If you are interested in working with Helen see Services for a variety of innovative customer-focussed solutions to your business needs. You can contact her with your own ideas too of course! Services.

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