The chances are, as a store or business owner, product or service supplier, you will at some point find yourself with an unhappy customer.
When it’s your pride and joy, it can often feel a little personal. Complaints can take many forms. A letter, an angry face shouting at you at 9.01am Monday morning, or maybe a full business shaming across the internet at 7pm as you sit down to dinner. I’m sure you’ve had one of those moments! Complaints are unpleasant, and it is something I find is consistently top of my client’s business worry list.
I have spent the past 10 years resolving serious complaints in the pet and dog grooming industry. I have seen the good, the bad and the downright ugly outcomes of a poor resolution to a complaint. It is a subject that is covered in my Allrounder Ambition program for small business and has been the centre of many hours of team training.
What happens if you don’t resolve or your team are not equipped to deal with a complaint the right way?
It is a well known fact that your clients and customers will tell one person if they are happy and 10 if they are unhappy. It can be extremely damaging to your brand, especially on social media. With this in mind you cannot avoid but you can resolve in a suitable manner, and even turn it to a compliment.
How can you triumph?
I have helped with many serious complaints directly and have also dealt with the fall out of the person who feels quite hurt about the issue. I have found the following points really help turn a complaint into a compliment:
- Offence. Don’t take it and certainly don’t get defensive. In most cases people don’t like to complain. It makes them feel uncomfortable. Of course, you’ll always have the odd one, but as far as I can tell, they are in the minority. As a customer, if you have taken the time to go back to a business owner then the complaint matters. As a customer, if you see someone get tetchy with you when you do then you are going to see red.
- Walk in the customer’s shoes. Try to understand why they are complaining. They’ve felt the need to make the extra effort to let someone know they are unhappy, so meet them halfway, and accept their view point
- Apologise. There is no harm in saying (and meaning!) I am sorry you feel that way. You are not admitting liability, but you are acknowledging their grievance. I have lost count as to how many complaints became serious because a team member “didn’t even offer an apology”. People can get more upset about this than the original problem.
- Care. This is so important in the pet industry. It is important you care about your customers and their problem and their pets. Listen. If Roxy the Labrador has swallowed part of a chew toy, that could result in a serious medical issue. As much as you need to get your orders out, this is potentially a very serious problem for the pet, owner and subsequently you and your product manufacturer. You want them to love you and your business. Caring is the way to achieve this.
- Offer a resolve. This doesn’t mean a refund should be given out automatically. Sometimes an apology and thanking the client for bringing the issue to their attention is all that’s needed.
- Check back. If the subject of the complaint is particularly sensitive then I would suggest a follow up call to make sure everything is okay. It’s a lovely extra touch and will be appreciated.
Finally, I have two other points to add which make or break your response to a customer or client complaint. Train your team. Make sure they are empowered to deal with things the right way. It will cost you much less in the long run. It stops complaints getting out of hand, and keeps operations running smoothly if they are dealt with confidently and quickly. It is tragic to see a team member lose all confidence trying to deal with something they are not equipped to. Help them to help your business.
Finally, what can you learn from the complaint. Revisit the protocols in place to ensure you try, to the best of your ability to prevent the same thing happening to someone else.
Nicola @ www.ravensfordconsultancy.com
Ravensford Consultancy helps pet businesses grow, from our Allrounder Ambition package for individuals and small business to our bespoke consultancy packages for larger firms.
This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of Pet Gazette