Customer Complaints 101

It’s all a numbers game really. No matter how good your business and how efficient your team, it’s probably impossible to please all your customers all the time. It, therefore, follows that the more customers you have, the more complaints you will receive.

The belief that “there is no such thing as bad publicity” is largely misplaced but in the modern world of social media it’s not so much about the nature of the complaint, it’s how you are seen to deal with it online in the public domain. The modern consumer is wise. If they see 100% great reviews they are immediately suspicious – after all “surely no one is that good”.

How often have you read seemingly fantastic reviews and thought “Are these made up?” Sometimes the reverse can be true. It’s not unheard of for competitors to stage bad reviews and even disgruntled ex-staff so just how does the customer filter the information presented to them via social media?

In a business where we carry out over 60,000 treatments a month and more than 2000 a day, every day. One thing we know about is taking care of our customers and so here are just a few of our customer service philosophies.

Lesson #1 is that if you take good care of your customers, they will come back again and again. It’s a relationship. The customers first visit could be likened to going on a first date. They like what they see but are not sure if your personality, culture and values are a “fit”. It takes time to earn a customers trust and if there’s no second date it just won’t happen!

Lesson #2 is that a new customer is harder to find and costs more than an existing one! The existing customer, when well looked after is already on the route to accepting your recommendations of treatments and products whereas a new customer spends their first few visits sizing you up.

Lesson #3 – treat your customers well – on every single visit. Let’s face it, if the customer took the time to come back again, the least you can do is show them your appreciation. The number one big mistake is to start to treat the customer as a friend. They are not your friends, and it’s important to retain that professional boundary that makes sure you are on your game as the client’s personal advisor every visit. Once the dialogue slips into “how’s your boyfriend (or baby, job, holiday or cat), then you have crossed the line and the opportunity to focus on the client’s needs and make useful recommendations was lost.

Lesson #4 – Go the extra mile! Your customer will not be impressed by the things you should do, but they will be impressed by the extra you put on top! For example, when you greet a customer with “how’s your day been?” you are probably repeating the same thing that every other sales person has asked them today. Now, I don’t know about you but by the time I’ve heard “how’s your day been” in three consecutive shops I want to scream “it’s been plagued with repetitive small talk from sales assistants!” Instead, what impresses me is the assistant that goes the extra step. My 17-year-old son recently chose a suit for his formal while shopping with his friends. He put it on layby until I could go back to the shop “to check it out” (meaning “buy it for him”).

As we walked through the door two weeks later, we were greeted with “Hey Charlie, this must be your mum, lovely to meet you – we have everything ready for you to try on again”. Wow! That’s what I call going the extra mile!

Lesson #5 – if a customer complains, they have committed to let you know they are unhappy and give you the opportunity to fix it. Most customers will not even do that and will just go straight to telling everyone else how bad you were. Bad reviews spread quickly, so, rather than be defensive about the complaint, thank the client for providing you with the opportunity to resolve the issue. Take the time to work through the problem and ask where they feel you need to up your game. This will often diffuse an aggressive customer and at the very least give them the opportunity to get the problem off their chest.

So, this is my complaint priority plan

1. Take action immediately. If you’ve been asked to call a customer back, do so straight away. The longer they wait for your call, the more annoyed they will be and the less likely you are to reach a good resolution.

2. Listen. Avoid being defensive. Calmly listen and make notes as you do so. Avoid interrupting the customer with excuses and never argue back. Right or wrong, your client is entitled to their opinion, and you have an obligation to hear it.

3. Consider your options. By the end of the call or conversation, you will know whether this is going to be an easy complaint to resolve or not. If you need more information let the client know that you need time to gather it and be specific about when you will get back to them – make sure you stick to your promise.

4. Provide direct contact. Provide a direct contact number is possible and let the customer know the days you are usually available. If the customer needs to contact you again make it easy for them – there is nothing worse than going from person to person trying to resolve an issue.

5. Have empathy – put yourself in the customer’s shoes. How would you feel if you were the customer? How would you like the assistant to handle the problem? A few minutes thought ahead of action might make all the difference.

6. It’s not always about the refund! There’s a temptation to give a refund to get rid of the complaint but consider that it’s not always about money. There is an implied finality to a refund which feels like a breakup in a relationship. As a business owner, my priority is to win the customer back, so I look for other alternatives to a refund. This may be a complementary treatment, a voucher for products or even the opportunity of a fresh consultation and treatment review. Be guided by your customer’s words rather than jump to a refund.

In summary, complaints and feedback are a feature in business, and both are an opportunity to get to know your customer. Make sure that your staff are equipped to handle them and that they have the maturity and confidence to manage them well.