Customer service: How to prevent complaints and handle those you get

Did you know that 13% of unhappy customers tell more than 20 people that they're dissatisfied? The quality of your service determines whether customers will come back and recommend your business to others—basically whether you'll earn their loyalty or not.

Always provide quality service.

Did you know that 13% of unhappy customers tell more than 20 people they're dissatisfied?

Customer service should be a key aspect of your marketing strategy. The quality of your service determines whether customers will come back and recommend your business to others—basically whether you'll earn their loyalty or not.

There's a customer service aspect to every interaction between customers and your employees, so every employee that has any contact with customers should always provide quality service.

Customer service starts with the first call a potential customer makes, even if it doesn't result in an immediate sale. And customer service never ends. There's nothing worse for your image and reputation than providing poor service after a customer has purchased a product or service. You have to provide good after-sales service to protect your reputation and earn customer loyalty.

Customer service plays a part in the following stages:

  • Before the sale
    • Be attentive to the customer's needs to gauge if you can provide what they are looking for.
    • Show the customer how you can meet those needs.
    • Be patient. You may need to meet with a customer more than once to win the sale. Being pushy can compromise the rest of the sales process.
  • At the time of the sale
    • Remind the customer of the benefits of your product or service.
    • Explain the next steps (timeline, delivery, terms and conditions, etc.).
  • When processing orders
    • Explain how the order will be processed.
    • Confirm the terms of delivery and expected delivery date.
    • Contact the customer immediately if you won't be able to keep your promises.
  • At the time of delivery
    • Confirm when delivery will be made.
    • Deliver on time.
    • Sincerely thank the customer for buying your product or service.
    • Add the customer to your database.
  • After the sale
    • Follow up to make sure the customer is satisfied.
    • Remind the customer how they can reach your after-sales department and reiterate that you are available to answer any questions.
    • Let the customer know about your promotions and new products and services.

The quality of your customer service has a direct impact on your image and reputation. By providing good customer service, you'll maintain a solid business relationship with your customers, and they'll think of you the next time they need something.

Listen, listen, listen throughout the sales process! Your customers will get exactly what they want, they'll be happy to do business with you and they'll come back. Listening also helps you develop a long-term relationship with them.

How to handle customer complaints

Is there any upside to complaints? Actually, they help you get to know your customers and their needs better, fix any mistakes you're making, improve your products and services, prevent customer dissatisfaction, establish a long-term relationship of trust with your customers and motivate your employees to find solutions.

Here are the 6 keys to successful complaint management:

  • Train all employees to use the same vocabulary and approach.
  • Welcome complaints: thank customers for sharing their comments, being alert, taking the time to call you, etc.
  • Have clearly defined policies and procedures.
  • Respond quickly and effectively.
  • Give employees the tools and authority to respond.
  • Take complaints into account when making decisions with long-term implications for your business.
You must communicate the complaint handling procedure to all employees. After-sales managers or anyone else who gets a complaint should:
  • control their emotions, i.e., use "I" statements rather than accusatory "you" statements, use an objective, human approach and focus on solving the problem and making the customer happy
  • listen without interrupting and focus on the facts rather than how they are presented
  • empathize and tell the customer that they're right to be dissatisfied and that you understand why they're unhappy
  • earn the customer's trust, reassure them and tell them that you'll find a solution right away
  • thank the customer for telling you they are dissatisfied
  • tell them how long it will take to handle their complaint
  • contact them within the complaint-handling window

Handling complaints involves finding personalized solutions. You may need to find an immediate solution or a longer-term solution so the problem doesn't happen again. Be careful not to become complacent, convincing yourself that "People always complain about such and such, but there's nothing we can do about it!" Instead, put an end to recurring issues or at least minimize their effects.

Remember that quality service pays dividends in the form of quality customers, a solid reputation and a good brand image. It's advertising you can't do without!

The content related to handling complaints was written by Andrée Ulrich.