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Do's and Don'ts: Things to Avoid When Handling Customer Complaints

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Walking the Line When Dealing With Customer Dissatisfaction

As anyone who’s ever worked more than a couple of days in a customer-facing position can tell you, there is no one right way to go about handling customer complaints, but there are definitely a whole host of wrong ways to go about it. In the end, each customer is different and every scenario your team comes across when handling customer complaints may require a nuanced response. Customer dissatisfaction is serious business, so you need to have a process for handling customer complaints. But more than that, you need to know what not to do when dealing with customers whose experience of your service has been less than you would have hoped for. In this post, we will examine how to handle complaints, and give you a list of the top things you should avoid when dealing with customer dissatisfaction. You can learn more about the top customer service skills every service desk team should have here.

How to Handle Complaints

Handling customer complaints effectively requires both an established complaint management process and the freedom to deviate from that process as necessary in order to provide the exemplary service you’re aiming for. The steps in a good complaint management process are relatively straightforward and near universal. They include:
  • Identify yourself, if engaging with the customer directly.
  • Listen, or read carefully, looking for salient details to ascertain the outcome the customer desires.
  • Confirm the details with the customer, as possible.
  • Empathize with the customer in a courteous manner, while avoiding deflecting or laying of blame and defensiveness.
  • Assess the potential impact of the situation resulting in the complaint, and notify other team members as warranted.
  • If possible, give the customer a realistic sense of how the complaint will be handled, and what follow-up steps will be taken and by what date.
  • Check in with the customer regarding their perception of how you will be handling the complaint, and note their perceived level of satisfaction with the proposed response.
  • Provide appropriate team members with information regarding the complaint and actionable items.
  • Identify any service or process problems that the complaint may point to, and address with the involved team as appropriate.
  • Follow up with the customer following actionable steps, if appropriate.

What to Avoid When Handling Complaints

Every customer is unique, but they all have common desires when it comes to getting their complaints addressed. Following an established complaint management procedure will help keep your team from exacerbating an already challenging (from the customer’s perspective) situation. There are also many things that should be avoided when dealing with a complaining customer, including:
  • Starting off on the wrong foot by failing to empathize with the customer’s perception of the situation, service, or process that is at the heart of the complaint.
  • Making promises or giving false expectations of what it will take to address the complaint, or when it will be addressed.
  • Failing to follow up with the customer, ignoring or dismissing the complaint, or acting as if it isn’t worthy of addressing.
  • Making excuses, deflecting, or laying the blame back on the customer, management, or another department.

The Ever-Important Step – Follow Up

The importance of following up with your customer in a timely fashion cannot be expressed strongly enough. Often, following up – even in situations where a tangible solution to the problem that created the situation leading to the complaint isn’t readily available or feasible for other reasons – can be enough to restore the customer’s confidence in the service or process.
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Liz Beavers
Like many IT professionals, Liz’s entry into the tech industry was unconventional. With plans to pursue a career in public relations, Liz’s career quickly took…
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