How you handle a complaint will often determine the longevity of your reputation and business. The following tips will help guide you when you run into complaint issues with clients.
1) How are you going to "fix it?" Most people want to be heard and validated. Avoid getting pulled into debates or drama, especially on social media, and stick with the basics of what happened.
2) ALWAYS follow up with a good faith response/solution and document that solution in your client file. NEVER go without responding, refuting, or correcting. The mark of a professional is to correct what is wrong and make it right, or at least to try your best to make it so. It is easier to put out a small fire than one that is out of control.
3) Empathize. "I am so sorry that happened. I wouldn't like it if ____________ or ______________happened either. I'd like to make it right. What do you feel would be a good solution?
4) Learn from that experience so that it doesn't happen again, or that you will be prepared in the event such a situation does arise again. Try very hard not to let a complaint catch you off-guard.
5) Let the client comment. You do not want them going on social media, Angie's List, BBB, Rip-Off Report, Yelp, etc. Statistically, a client will wait one week (or less) before leaving negative reviews IF they don't hear from you first.
According to Forbes article, Why Ignoring Social Media Complaints is a Huge Mistake, there is an upside to answering complaints. 21% of complaints that were answered did receive a response and better than 50% had a positive reaction to the company they had just blasted a week before. When customers received a response, 46% were pleased and 22% actually left a positive comment about the company.
After a service is concluded, ask the client if they were satisfied with the outcome and give them a place to leave a testimonial or comment on your site. If there are complaints, try to get the customer to complain to you.
6) Predetermine a potential problem/challenge. If you sense, or know, a problem is coming your way, try to head it off before it actually becomes a problem by sitting down with the client and communicating about any questions or concerns. Taking the time to do so is worth it in the long run, as a misperception can get blown up instantly if you are not careful with it.
7) Turning the other cheek. Hard as it may be, unless something horribly wrong has occurred, part of the solution involves us turning the other cheek and being 100% professional to keep our reputation intact and safe. This is very hard to do. Back up everything you do, and say, with some sort of documentation in the event you ever have to prove something was done/wasn't done, etc.
8) Train Your Staff To Be As Courteous and Professional as you are. You are the owner of your company, so taking care of the client to the best of your ability is your job. However, the courtesy, kindness and willingness to help also comes from your employees. A serious complaint can arise from less-than-stellar treatment from an employee and seriously tarnish YOUR image. One poorly delivered comment to your client (or someone close to the client) and the client's perception will be that your company didn't care, didn't listen, wasn't willing to listen, wasn't willing to help, etc.
Teach them what you expect from them and that all complaints should be handled with care and referred to you as the owner.
9) Brace Yourself - You're Going to Get Beat Up Some of the Time. A typical complaint can escalate rapidly into a full-blown scenario, if the client perceives they complaint meant nothing to the business, or the business simply doesn't care. Listen, repeat and validate the complaint, and discuss options for reasonable solutions.
10) Be Pleasant, Courteous and Professional. This is a very had thing to do if you were accused of doing something you didn't do, and it happens. We have all had these experiences, but in the 21st century with instant access to social media, you could be crushed within hours if you are not responsible with your reaction and ability to listen and solve.
11) Follow up after a resolution is reached and when the customer is happy, ask if they would consider referring you to others. Ensure that the resolution met the needs of the client to the best of your ability. This goes a long way in a society when many are not willing to resolve issues.
12) Recognize that not all complaints are easily solved, and some may be unsolvable, but by demonstrating effort and care, much can be accomplished. If not, at least you know you did your very best to repair and restore the relationship.
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©2016 The American Society of Estate Liquidators® No part of The American Society of Estate Liquidators® articles, whole or partial, may be used without Julie’s written consent. Email her at Service@ASELonline.com.