The end of a transaction is not really the end. Even if you have a ‘no returns’ policy, you still have to do follow-up and then there are the after-sales complaints which range from the predictable, to the embarrassing, and even sometimes the awe inspiring.
Whether the customer is being civil or irate; you are the one in the front line and you have to take the hit. Here are a few tips on how best to handle the situation.
Stop and listen: Once a customer approaches you with a complaint, stop whatever you are doing and listen. There is no excuse to give anything less than your complete attention.
Keep quiet and listen: Do not argue. No matter how wrong the customer’s claim might be, simply keep quiet and listen. Never interrupt.
Stay calm and listen: Don’t lose your composure. Whatever utterances are thrown in your face, do not take it personal. Let the customer talk and ventilate as long as he or she needs to. Your focus is to sift out the actual problem. So listen carefully for that you do not pick on any innuendos or insults that might blow out as the customer lets off steam. Usually once the customer perceives that you are genuinely interested in solving the problem he or she would calm down. So no matter how long it takes for the customer to get it off his or her chest; stay calm. Do not take offence and do not get exasperated.
Understand the problem: You cannot correct a problem you do not understand, so ensure that you do before you offer any help. You can get a notepad and scribble as the customer speaks. If the customer is really fuming wait until the person is considerably calm and ask questions to help you understand the problem. Do not assume you already know it. Sometimes these ‘confrontations’ can be so unpleasant that you just want to get it over with and give the customer whatever he or she wants. But that is not the way to go. Understanding the problem would help heal the damage in the mind of that customer and would help you prevent a reoccurrence.
Apologise and do not make excuses: Do not point fingers and do not make excuses. Simply let the customer speak and then apologise sincerely. It does not change the fact that it was not your fault. You are simply speaking for the company.
Empathise and never trivialise: Apologise and empathise immediately. Get on the other side and understand how the customer must feel, even if you do not agree. Sometimes an irate customer may be under some other kinds of pressure and the last thing he or she needs is another problem from your company, so do not belittle any complaint or you would aggravate the situation. Take each matter very seriously. Remember that your competitor is right across the street, and one unsatisfied customer can tell the entire world about your mistake; thanks to social media websites.
Solve the customer’s problem and not your own: If a customer complains that the courier company damaged his or her goods, focus on the restitution of the customer first. You can slug it out with the courier company later. Ensure that you have policies in place to cater for these incidents. Ensure that you have insurance cover. There might be situations where the customer is asking for something you cannot give; explain the situation calmly and do the best you can do. But do it immediately.