“A person without a smiling face should never be a salesperson” says a Chinese proverb. Likewise, a person without a good listening ear should not be handling customer complaints. Complaining customers may come in different garbs. Some may be genuine, some may be arrogant and some may be illogical – but the foremost thing needed in handling customer complaints is patience to listen first. A patient listening with genuine concern to understand the problem before offering a solution will remove half of the steam from the boiling customer!
Having outlined the fundamental aspect, let us now see what other best practices for customer care are.
1. Make the avenue for complaint clear and visible
A buyer of a product or a customer utilizing a service must be made clear as to where to complain in case of a problem. Making a customer run from pillar to post to register a complaint should be avoided at all costs. If a product manufacturer sells it through retailers, the retailers should be given clear guidelines on how to handle a complaint and the avenues to redress it.
Alternatively, if the manufacture wants to handle the complaints directly, there has to be a contact number or an e-mail address where the customer can get in touch and these instructions must be clearly visible to the end buyer through the bill, warranty card or Instruction manual.
2. Let there be humaneness
Ideally, the complaining customer should be given a direct access to a “person” to make the complaint rather than an interactive voice mail that forces an irate customer to key in several zeros and ones, ones’ phone number, bill number, zip code, the age of one’s pet dog, wife’s date of birth and so on before a complaint gets registered in a machine!
3. Don’t charge the customer for complaining
Recently my telephone land line became dead and I made a complaint to my telephone service provider using my cell phone. Because of the long winding automated interactive voice mail system, it took more than about 15 minutes to finally get access to a person to listen to the complaint . Once the process was over, a considerable amount of my balance amount in my pre-paid cell phone had sunk! I am at a loss now where to complain about it!
4. Commit a time for redressal
When a complaint is registered, a committed time for a possible redress should be made. All possible steps should be taken to redress the complaint within the committed period.
5. Access to escalating the complaint to a higher level
A complaining customer, if not satisfied with the response offered by a line staff, should be given access to a higher authority without any hesitation. It is needless to mention that the higher authority should be willing to listen better and if there are added complaints about the way a staff behaved with the complaining customer, that additional head ache too should be solved amicably, with levelheadedness.
6. No ego clashes please
People dealing with customer complaints require constant counseling to evolve above personal ego plane. They should always be instructed to segregate genuineness of complaint from the idiosyncrasies of the complainer. People who lack such interpersonal skills should not be left to deal with customers directly.
7. Keep boundaries flexible
Managers who are finally responsible for taking very critical decisions on customer complaints (giving a free replacement, providing a costly spare part free, giving a free service beyond warranty period etc) should have a vision. Depending on criticality, sometimes going out of the way in favor of the customer, by not sticking to a legally correct stand, but resorting to a morally correct stand, will go a long way in winning a customer confidence and continued patronage.
Handling customer complaint is not an easy job for everyone. The organization must have genuine customer care running in its veins over and above making profits and this care should percolate down to the staff level where customers are met face to face.