5th July 2019

How well do you deal with customer complaints?

A few weeks ago, I went out for lunch with my family. The pub was in the sleepy East Anglian countryside, the sun was shining, and the beer was cold. The menu was your typical pub-food fare, nothing special but we didn’t mind. There was very little that could ruin our get together. Then the food arrived. My dad, a no-nonsense man from the North-East who rarely complains, found a large piece of green string in his dinner. He showed the waitress the plate and asked for the chef to remake the food without the string. The waitress, to our horror, refused. And her response is something that I will never forget… “oh, that is naturally occurring in potatoes”.

String. Naturally occurring in potatoes. 

Not only did that response make her look incredibly daft but it was entirely the incorrect way to deal with a customer complaint. And whilst that waitress will become a punchline in many family jokes for years to come, it left a lot to be desired about our afternoon out.

If only our waitress had seen WATCH & GO’s What to Say When A Customer Complains. The video has five key pieces of advice for people who are faced with customer complaints. 

Here’s the first idea: express concern. You want to show the customer that you care about what they are saying. Even if you disagree with them about the nature of their complaint, it doesn’t make their concerns any less valid. Our waitress may have fundamentally believed that green string was naturally occurring in potatoes. And that is her prerogative. Ultimately, however, the customer has a right to express concern. It is up to you to get to the bottom of why they are complaining, and you do this by asking questions.

Asking questions is the most important part of dealing with the complaints process. This is where you get to the bottom of what is going on. Whilst it may be instinctive to be suspicious of why they are making their complaint, you need to understand the motive. And asking questions is your best weapon. When I worked for an outdoor clothing brand, we would receive complaints on a regular basis. We would have to ask questions to ascertain whether there was a manufacturing fault with the garment, if there had been proper maintenance or if the customer damaged the item accidentally. You need to get to the bottom of why someone is complaining in order to respond appropriately.

And one question that will be asked, particularly in a retail setting, is “do you have a receipt?” This is an important question; however, it can be inflammatory. Before you fall back on company procedure, deal with the person first. A simple “I’m sorry you are experiencing this”, can do relations a world of good. A lack of sensitivity will narrow your window of opportunity to resolve the situation effectively.    

However, it is no good asking questions if you are not going to listen to what the customer has to say. This, along with expressing concern, demonstrates that their complaint is being taken seriously.  The waitress, partly due to her comedic response, did not make my dad feel like his complaint had been taken seriously. He felt that she couldn’t be bothered to deal with the issue. Making a customer feel like they are not valued is probably one of the worst ways of responding to a complaint.

Another tip I have from What to Say When A Customer Complains is to not get defensive. Your immediate reaction may be to tell the customer they are wrong. But just because you don’t agree with the complaint doesn’t make it less real. Stay calm and listen to what the customer has to say before you deliver your response. Claiming that green string is naturally occurring in mashed potato will never be an appropriate response.

And whilst the story I have told is humorous, the tips I have shared from the video apply to all situations of complaint. Why not take a look at the video to see some of the other tips on What to Say When A Customer Complains. Watch the video here. And the next time you experience a customer complaint, take a deep breath and…

WATCH & GO’s What To Say When a Customer Complains is available for free for the month of July 2019. Email video@scottbradbury.co.uk to book your no-obligation demo to see over 60 titles.


How well do you deal with customer complaints?

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