Having a process to resolve complaints helps assure that we deal with the emotional and practical aspects of the issue.
Always answer the phone or greet people in person as though you are happy to hear from them; use their first name. Begin in a friendly way. This is easy to say but can be difficult to do. We need to be able to ‘live in day-tight compartments’ and separate previous negative experiences from this customer contact
- Listen – see at the bottom for ‘Listening principles’
We often get the same kinds of complaints, so it becomes challenging to really listen to people. Give them opportunity to vent some of their frustration; be empathetic. Listen for facts and feelings. Resist the temptation to start responding too quickly. Show signs of active listening, like brief interjections or clarifying questions.
Ask questions to clarify the concerns. Again, we need to resist responding until we understand people and their issues.
a. Elementary questions capture the basic facts of the problem. This gives us an opportunity to take some of the emotion out of the complaint.
b. Elaborative questions gather more details. This gives the customer a chance to expand on their issues and feelings. These questions should be relatively shoft, to encourage the customer to talk more.
c. Evaluative questions help us gain an understanding of the severity of the issue, in the mind of the customer. This is also where we evaluate what will satisfy the customer.
Find a point of agreement with the person. This does not necessarily mean that we agree with the complaint. This is where we show the customer that we heard and understood their concern and we recognise that it is important to them.
- Address the issue
Now that the emotional issues have been addressed, do everything in your power to resolve the practical aspects of the complaint. Take responsibility for the actions of your organisation. This is your opportunity to turn a lemon into lemonade. People who have their problems successfully resolved tend to continue to do business with the organisation.
- Test Questions
Ask questions to test how well you have resolved the emotional and practical sides of the complaint. Give the customer another opportunity to talk, be a good listener.
- Offer Additional Help
Ask what else you can do for customer. This allows an opportunity to turn the conversation away from the complaint which makes it easier to end on a positive note.
- Follow Through
Often, complaints cannot be resolved completely on the first point of contact. If you need to get back to the customer, do so quickly and thoroughly. Even if the complaint has been resolved, create a reason to contact the customer again. For example, find a way to give added value – look for ways to solve the root causes of problems within your organisation.
- Maintain eye contact if talking in person.
- Be sensitive to what is NOT being said.
- Observe body language (or voice tonality when over the phone) for incongruent messages.
- Practice patience! Speak only after the other person is finished.
- Do not interrupt or finish the speaker’s sentence or change the subject.
- Listen to learn; pretend there will be a quiz at the end of the speaker’s sentence.
- Clarify any uncertainties after they have spoken.
- Make sure you understood what was said by rephrasing / paraphrasing.
- Don’t jump to conclusions; don’t assume. Keep an open and accepting attitude.
- Practice pure listening; remove all distractions and minimise internal and external filters.
- turn off your mind and be with the speaker; try to see thing from their perspective – put yourself in their shoes.