Yes, it’s true. More people complain that compliment. It’s natural human behavior. People complain when they’re upset and seldom compliment good service. Good service is expected. Bad service is not.
Customer complaints are part and parcel of running a business and every business gets complaints, no matter how good they are. The idea is obviously to get as few as possible complaints.
Today community communication through social media is ubiquitous. Everyone belongs to some group or forum where they share common interests and it’s easy for them to share their opinion about the service they received at a business. Inevitably they share their bad experiences because they want to either “get even” or because they want to legitimately warn their friends.
In the past many large companies had call centers and help lines dealing with complaints. Today most companies have social media teams that monitor online chatter about their brand. Some even use complex software to track and monitor online mentions. These teams then respond to complains online ensuring that the complaints don’t spiral out of control and eventually become viral.
Some companies are very good at it while others are notoriously bad at it. The ones that are bad at it are typically still stuck in the old school thinking that if they ignore the complaint then it will go away. The problem with social media is that it seldom just goes away. In fact, it typically escalates into a much bigger problem and if dealt with expeditiously in the beginning the escalation could have been prevented. Companies that are bad at dealing with online complaints typically also just provide bad service.
So what must a business do to deal with complaints effectively?
You don’t have to be a multinational company with a team of social media experts to deal with complaints effectively. You don’t need complex software algorithms to warn you about online activity. The first and foremost thing you need to do is provide good service.
The reality is that if you provide good service then you will seldom have to deal with complaints. Your purpose is to provide a service to your customers and if they don’t like what you’re doing then obviously you are doing something wrong. How can you know if you are on the wrong track? How will you know if you are overcharging your customers? How will you know if your product or service is crappy? Your cusrtomers will tell you. In no uncertain terms.
How do you fix it?
By listening and then acting accordingly.
Every company is inside a community. It could be a geographical community or industry. Every company operates inside a community. Find the places where your community congregates online. Join these communities and participate. Listen, read and be watchful. It’s your community and you need to know what they are saying.
If you pick up one complaint about your business don’t stick your head in the sand like an ostrich. Don’t take it personally. Don’t get upset. Don’t become indignant. Every customer has a right to complain if they feel they were short-changed or didn’t receive the service they paid for. It’s their right, guaranteed in our Constitution. In addition it’s legal.
It’s totally legal for a customer to complain about poor service. In fact the Consumer a Protection Act actively encourages complaining about service issues.
The only time you, as the business owner will have recourse is if the complaint is obviously defamatory. It can only be defamatory if it’s not the truth. If I say that the hamburger you sold me is too expensive then it’s my opinion and you have no recourse. If I say that it tasted bad, then you cannot sue me. If I say that I found a cockroach in my food and it’s not true and I can’t prove it then I am lying and you can sue me for defamation.
The reality is that most complaints are legitimate. Why would someone bother to complain if it’s not true?
So how do you handle it?
Once you see the complaint respond immediately. Immediately apologise and offer to correct it. Don’t make lame-ass excuses. Consumers aren’t stupid. Be genuine and apologize. Offer to rectify the situation.
Listen and learn. Don’t be hard-assed. Don’t be bullheaded and fob the customer off by insinuating that they don’t know what they’re talking about. The customer is king and you must respect the fact that they spend their money with you. You are either going to create a prophet for your business or you are going to create a terrorist.
Be honest with yourself. If the customer is right and you can change the way you do things then do it. Change your recipe. Reprimand a staff member that annoyed the customer. Change your pricing policy. Improve your service.
By being open minded you will constantly improve and you will receive less complaints. You will have more happy customers. Your reputation will improve and people will notice that you really care about the service you provide.
Every possible opportunity you have to interact with a customer is a good marketing opportunity. Your goal must be to turn every disgruntled customer into a happy customer. Even if you are responding to a complaint online you are marketing yourself. It’s an opportunity to talk to customers. Isn’t that what business are supposed to do?
In closing, the excuse that you don’t use Facebook or Twitter or Instagram is not a valid excuse. These are your tools. They should be your new best friends. If you don’t know how to use these tools then learn. Find a way.
Ignorance is not an excuse and if you don’t use these tools then you will have to bear the brunt of the brutal immediacy that social media will unleash upon you.