For any local business, no matter how excellent the customer service is, how groundbreaking the products are, or how well the company is known, there will always be a time when customer complaints come up. You can’t please everyone. However, there are some things you can do handle the complaint with care and make things right for the customer.
Here are three examples of common issues that cause customers to complain about your business, and what you can do to resolve them.
A few months ago, a family friend of mine experienced what can only be defined as a very costly assumption. A local landscaper was in her neighborhood working a few houses down from her. Since they were already in the area, she asked if one of the managers could give her a quote on a landscape job. He gave her an estimate, she thanked him, and he left. The next day, a crewmember knocked on her door and asked for her to turn off her sprinkler timers. They had already begun to till the area for her new grass.
At no time had an agreement been made for the company to get started.
Although this example may not be the “norm,” it’s a telling story on why you should always make sure your Ts are crossed and Is are dotted before beginning work. This can help ensure that nobody is surprised along the way, and it helps prevent angry customers from going online to complain about your business or worse — take legal action.
Tip: Have a system for recording your interactions with your prospects and customers. For example, you could use call recording technology if you’re making arrangements via phone, so you can refer back to your conversations. Or, you can use an online system for tracking prospects interested in your services along with their written agreements for your work. The more you can document, the better – for both you and customers.
Whether you’re a homeowner or apartment renter, chances are you’ve experienced the dreaded “We’ll be there between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.” conversation from a service provider. Or, maybe you bought something with a “Guaranteed!” message attached to it, and the results were anything but what was promised. Or, maybe you found a great deal on your website, only to find out it was expired when you tried to use it.
Think about how these mishaps made you feel. Probably not satisfied with the business, right? So make sure that in your business, potential and current customers don’t experience overpromises like these either.
Tip: First of all, make sure the messaging on your website, advertising, local listings, and any other place a consumer finds your business info is a clear and honest representation of what you do and what you offer, and that you regularly remove any discounts or seasonal offers that are no longer valid. And most importantly, if you do make a snafu in your marketing and your customers have a bad experience or poor result, don’t ignore it. Some unhappy customers might try to reach you directly before going online to voice their opinion. So, make sure you have a system (like your call recording!) to review potential issues and follow up quickly with these (and all) customers in order to resolve their complaints as soon as possible.
The Blame Game
If you resolve an issue and still receive a negative comment online, or if a consumer decides to go to Yelp instead of contacting you directly, there’s one tip that should be at the top of your list: Do not play the “blame game.”
Chances are, you’ve seen the debacle that Arizona Bakery Company faced after receiving a negative Yelp review. And while “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is something that sounds good in theory, in reality it’s very untrue (even an episode on Chef Gordon Ramsey’s “Kitchen Nightmare” wouldn’t be worth the headache of a negative review storm).
But it’s not just online reviews where you should keep your calm before responding. In-person confrontations can be just as damaging to your reputation as offline ones. For example, a friend recently reserved a moving truck. When he arrived to pick it up, there were none available. Instead of explaining and resolving the issue, the company blamed him for booking it on a busy weekend and still requested that he pay his deposit.
Tip: Don’t blame the customer. There are very, very, few instances in which putting the customer at fault is justifiable (this guy gets the one pass), and even if they are, there are more professional ways to handle the situation. Discuss the issues rationally and try to come to a resolution without getting into a heated conversation. Remember that there are people with smartphones all around that can record your in-person rant or screen capture comments on social media or review sites. If you’re going to go viral in minutes, it shouldn’t be for how you mistreat a customer. Speak to every customer like you were speaking to thousands of them.
How do you combat negative reviews as a business owner? Let us know with a comment!