If you have more than one customer, you should get ready for complaints. No matter how great your products and customer service are, you can’t keep everyone happy. There will always be people who’ve had a bad customer experience, and some will let you know. That’s actually a good thing. Many unhappy customers just leave without bothering with feedback, which prevents you from identifying the problems that made them leave. So, consumer complaints are a fantastic source of suggestions for improvement.
Data has shown that most of the sales in any business come from existing customers. That makes customer retention as important as conversion. If you don’t want to lose returning buyers, you need to respond the customer complaints quickly and efficiently. By observing a few ground rules, you can keep your customers happy and increase your retention rates. That’s what this article is about. In the first section, we’ll go over some of the most important rules in responding to complaining consumers. Then, I’ll reveal the four most common types of customer complaints.
Listen to the Complaints
The first step seems a bit too obvious — of course, you’ll listen to the consumer complain, right? Well, not really. This step is all about allowing the customer to present their problem and story entirely and without interruptions. Your support reps shouldn’t jump to conclusions and propose a solution with barely two sentences. The problem with that is not just that they can get it wrong; the customer will end up feeling even more frustrated than before.
Make your customers feel like you listened, that their opinions, their problems matter to your business. I cannot emphasize this point enough. From my personal experience as a consumer, I can tell you that feeling like the company actually heard my complaint would make up for the problems I was having 9 out of 10 times. Sympathy goes both ways, and if you show people that you care, they will sympathize with you instead of seeing you as an impersonal, uncaring company.
Ensuring consumers feel they’re listened to is not that hard. Ask your customer support reps to let people describe their problems in length. Try encouraging more comments with a few short prompts (“that must have been unpleasant”). If you’re fielding complaints in the form of emails or on social media, it’s essential to read through the entire complaint. People typically like to rant in their emails and even more on social media. That shouldn’t stop your support team from reading and noting every point. When responding, address all the points they raised one by one. That will show them you cared enough about their problems that you took the time to read the entire rant.
With complaints you get as emails or comments on social media, you should also add a step before actually responding. Acknowledging that you’ve received their complaint and that you’ll get back to them is a great way to get things under control as quickly as possible. You can acknowledge the complaint using an auto-respond email. If you’re using a CRM like RunSensible, you can set that up with just a few clicks. Create a short message that tells the consumer you value their feedback and that you’ll follow up on it asap.
Apologize to your Customers
After listening, comes the apology. Apologizing is a must in responding to complaints. It disarms the angry consumer and makes them lower their defenses. But the way you apologize and what you apologize for are extremely important. If you don’t want it to seem fake and insincere, your apology should be voiced or written carefully. You should also be mindful of what it is that you’re apologizing for. Are you apologizing for the fact that they didn’t like packaging or that they had a bad customer experience?
Ideally, your apology should be specific and to the point. If the complaint is about one or two problematic aspects of your product, you should mention them. But if you’re dealing with a consumer complaint that lists ten different problems, you will need to make your apology more generic. A generic apology will sound something like, “We are sorry that you had a bad customer experience.” As you can see, it’s not exactly heartwarming and human. But sometimes, all you can do is write or say a variation of that.
Here’s a fact: you’ll hear the same complaints again and again and again. So, it pays to make some sort of template for responding to each one. With a CRM like RunSensible, you can use these as notes added to each consumer’s profile or templates for writing emails. These templates will show their true value when your business starts to grow. By integrating the templates, an efficient support team, and a smart CRM system, you’ll be ready to respond to any number of complaints.
Sometimes, simply saying “sorry, our bad” doesn’t cut it. If you’ve ever had a terrible experience with airlines, you probably have an idea what I’m talking about. Airlines are infamous for how they can make people wait hours on end for no apparent reason. With that kind of inconvenience, a simple apology is more likely to get on your nerves. So, most of the time, airlines try to salvage the customer relationship by offering small gifts. That’s one of the tactics you should definitely look into. The gift or compensation doesn’t have to be a big deal — you don’t want to go in the red just to get a few complaining customers back on board. A standard apology gift is a discount voucher. If you already have a mechanism for discounts and deals, you can quickly issue vouchers as an incentive for customers to stick around.
Think of a Solution
Finding the correct solution to a complaint in time is a crucial component of good customer support. Once the consumer is through explaining and your reps have offered the right apology, you have to draw the conversation toward finding a solution. That may be harder to do on the phone or in a video call than it is with emails. The worth of your support team will be put to the test. They have to come up with a quick fix before the customer becomes frustrated with the support. That means they have to know your products inside and out and know how to leverage that knowledge to fix potential problems.
Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to help the complaining consumer. Suppose you have a business producing, packaging, and selling organic beef jerky. When a customer complains, the product is likely consumed already. So, if you deal in consumables, you can’t fix things right then and there. On the other hand, if you have a service-based company, you can solve the customer’s problem almost immediately. You should consider that when answering the complaint. It may be a good idea to consider an apology gift in cases where there is nothing to do.
However, even in cases where nothing can be done right away, you may find a solution eventually. You need to capitalize on that by letting the consumers know the problem they had has been fixed, thanks to them bringing it to your attention. That is what the following step is about.
Follow up on the Complaints
Responding to customer complaints as they come in is the primary task of the support team. But handling complaints shouldn’t end there. A simple but genius way to turn complaining customers into happy ones is to show them how their feedback has led to some changes on your part. You don’t have to scrap your entire product line just because a dozen people were not satisfied with what they bought. The change can be very subtle, just a tweak or even the plan to make some changes later on. Let those consumers know that their stories, their voices were part of that process. They will tell everyone what you did, becoming your unofficial influencers on social media and with word of mouth.
You shouldn’t wait too long to follow up on the complaints you’ve responded to before. If you send a follow-up email two months later, the customer will have forgotten about the whole thing. That will take away any effect it would have otherwise. A week or ten days seems to be the ideal interval between the initial response and the follow-up. Make sure to ask about their experience after your support reps helped them out. Try to gather as much additional feedback as possible without turning the email into a survey.
Monitor Social Media
Not all of your unhappy customers will take their complaints directly to you. They usually complain to their friends and coworkers in person or on social media, which is worse. You won’t have a way to answer for yourself and change how they feel about your business. Well, unless you start monitoring social media to see what people are saying about you. By quickly replying to complaints on social media, whether on your profile or elsewhere, you can do some much-needed damage control. It may even be a good idea to have a separate Twitter or Facebook profile to announce any problems that come up with your services. Getting in front of the problem and announcing that you’re already working on it is the perfect way of turning a crisis into opportunity.
There are more than a few social media platforms around, and expecting to monitor all of them is not realistic. That’s why you should focus on the more important platforms, which are the ones your buyer personas use the most. For example, if your business caters to hardcore gamers, you’ll have a better shot at finding them on Twitch than on Pinterest. Some social media platforms include free tools to let you monitor everything people say about your brand. Instagram, for example, lets you find mentions of your brand name or relevant hashtags from your dashboard.
If you want to take things a step further and have the budget to spare, you may consider purchasing social media tools. HootSuite, for example, gathers data from all major social media platforms and presents it in a simple, helpful way. Of course, you may find the prices a bit too steep for a small business that has yet to start growing. It’s finally up to you to decide which platforms you want to target and how much they’re worth investing in.
What are the four most common types of customer complaints?
You may find this hard to believe, but some of the most common complaints are about how companies deal with complaints. For example, the number one common type of customer complaint is that they couldn’t get a hold of an actual person over the phone. I think we can all understand that one. Let’s take a look at the four most common types of customer complaints and what you can do to prevent or address them.
No human voice
Humans are social — we cannot take isolation very well. We have all felt that for ourselves with the lockdown that forced us to stay isolated. For any human, talking to another human being is much more comforting than trying to navigate automatic messages and AI assistants. Sometimes you have a simple question and just need a straightforward answer but the company makes you jump through all sorts of loops, ending with you feeling more frustrated than when you first started. So, if you use automated messages on phones and emails, you will be getting a lot of this type of complaint.
Solution: cut back on automation
The solution to this is actually a good idea all around: use fewer automation tools. Many business owners consider auto-responder emails and pre-recorded phone messages as great ways to save time and money. And they’re right — to a point. Using too much automation will make your business feel impersonal, distant, and uncaring. Without a human element to encourage sympathy, unhappy customers will just drift away.
Support takes too long
This is another complaint about customer relationship management issues. Of course, this is familiar territory —spending minutes waiting on hold before finally deciding to hang up and walk away. Or maybe sending an email with a complaint and waiting for a reply, which comes after a week. These are some of the reasons why a customer decides not to come back for another sale.
Solution: don’t keep them waiting
A few simple tricks can make sure fewer people have to suffer through this. For example, you can your CRM to auto-respond to incoming customer complaints with an email that acknowledges receiving the complaint and asks them to wait for someone to get in touch.
What most of us think when we hear “customer complaint” is actually number three on this list. Complaints about poor services or broken products are not easy to fix on the spot, of course, but there are things that help.
Solution: apologize and fix
Data suggests that the most practical way to deal with this kind of complaint is to apologize for the inconvenience and to find a way to fix things. I’ve discussed these at length above, so I won’t repeat myself here.
Too hard to order
This is a priceless kind of feedback — it shows you precisely where the problem in your sales funnel can be found. So, make sure to read the complaint letter carefully, or ask your support reps to enter the details into your CRM, so you can fix it later.
Solution: Fix your funnel
This is basically a conversion problem that’s caused by a badly designed sales funnel. So, make sure to read our guide on designing and using sales funnels before trying to fix yours to simplify ordering and payment.
Simplifying Customer Complaints
What else is there, now that we’ve gone through all the necessary steps of responding to customer complaints? Are you done once you apply them to your business? Of course not. There is always more to be done, steps to improve. If you want to tap the true potential of your business in retaining customers, you will need to integrate a CRM into your sales process. A CRM and marketing tool like RunSensible is indispensable if you want to keep your relationship with your customers good enough to make them come back again and again.