Handling Customer Service Complaints: 5 Golden Rules

Your customer service department can see complaints two ways: they are either a golden opportunity to win a customer over or they are a pain that they want to be rid of as quickly as possible. Which kind of customer service do you want in your company? There was a time when the customer's needs were paramount; the rule was that "the customer is always right". Now we see rude customer care clerks, sloppy handling of problems and people in customer service who genuinely don't seem in the least interested in helping customers. This will, in the end, cost you business, and it doesn't have to be this way.

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks
The truth is, these days we often hire people in our customer service departments who aren't trained to do the job. Many businesses see it as an entry position, where to put the "new kid" until they learn the ropes. Or it is seen as the low job on the totem pole. But your customer service reps are your front line with your customers, the voice or email that represents your business.

One way to combat sloppy or ineffective customer service is by applying these five simple steps, in writing if you need to, to all your customer service department representatives. They are really only common sense, but with today's fast-paced internet responses your service department goof could become tomorrow's business headlines.

Five Habits of Effective Customer Service
  1. Listen to your customer – Truly stop and listen to them and hear what they are saying. If in an email, really think about their problem. Don't jump to your side of the equation, hear them out completely first. The goal is to understand their side, to see what is driving them to make this complaint.
  2. Respond quickly – Don't put off answering. If your customer service email doesn't have an auto reply that promises a quick response, create one. Then deliver on that promise.
  3. Acknowledge your error – Nothing gets a customer riled as fast as a customer service rep who insists it wasn't their fault. If they are upset enough to take the time to contact you, something isn't right. Always begin with an acknowledgement of their pain.
  4. Apologize for the mistake – Say you are sorry. Sound like you mean it. Also don't try to shift the blame or make excuses, simply say you are sorry about this problem. If Bank of America and Amazon can make public apologies, so can you. It will go a long way towards making your customer feel like they are not just another cog in your business wheel.
  5. Offer a solution – There is always a solution, even if it isn't the one they are asking for. But refusing to even come up with one is ignoring your customer's needs and a slap in the face to their efforts to find a solution. They wouldn't be contacting customer support if they didn't believe there was one.
Dealing with customer complaints is part of business. You are never going to not need to have skilled people who can make your customer feel better after coming to you with a problem. But if you can have your customer service people employ these simple steps, you will find they can turn a challenge into an opportunity.

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