Regardless of how much time, money, and energy your company invests in its products and services, problems will still occur and some customers will still complain. In many ways, online complaints from disgruntled customers can have more severe, longer-lasting repercussions than in-person encounters — the Internet remembers everything. The following tips can help you learn how to handle online customer complaints and benefit from them.
BEFORE YOU ADDRESS COMPLAINTS
Long, berating email messages or explosive Facebook outbursts can rattle your nerves, so you should make up your mind in advance not to let them bother you. Stay calm. You already have a problem to deal with, so don’t make things worse by losing control. Those who cultivate patience will usually provide the best customer service.
Never delete their messages
When you hear from an angry customer, resist the natural temptation to delete their messages or social media comments. Irate clients who feel ignored often lash out publicly on social media, causing great damage to your reputation. Besides, ignoring your customers equals poor customer service and that´s certainly not how you want your company to be perceived.
Put yourself in their shoes
While keeping your composure, make an effort to understand the situation from the customer’s point of view. When you imagine how you would feel in a similar situation, you are able to invoke the empathy needed to diffuse the situation. With such a compassionate approach to customer service, you have mastered a critical skill for dealing with angry customers.
Studies show that many customers who voice a complaint via social media expect to see a response within one hour. A quick response helps agitated customers feel valued, helping them to calm down. Also, prompt replies to customer complaints can differentiate your company from others in the business world. A Jupiter Communications report has shown that more than forty percent of the top five hundred companies took five days to answer email messages, and more than one-third of them didn’t bother answering at all. Set a goal for your company to respond to all customer messages as soon as possible.
Never deflect blame for a situation – admit the problem and accept responsibility. Thank your customers for bringing issues to your attention, and then focus on finding solutions rather than on making excuses. Always take an active approach, avoiding discouraging phrases such as “I cannot help you” or “This is not our fault.” Instead, a simple “We’re sorry” can move you toward a satisfactory resolution.
As you communicate with irate customers, don’t forget the adage: “Kill them with kindness”. When you show people that you understand their feelings, they will feel safe and have confidence that you will resolve the situation. When you write, “I know how you must feel,” your customers will begin regarding you as a friend rather than an adversary.
Avoid being arrogant
Proving your customers wrong won’t help you. Rather than mirroring the stubbornness of angry customers, set the right tone. Avoid using sarcasm or anything that others might interpret as cockiness or rudeness – this will only take you a few steps back as you will infuriate the customer even more. Always choose to write a polite message instead.
Make an effort to find out what your angry customers want. If necessary, review the data your company has recorded about its clients as part of the dispute resolution process. In any case, ask your customers questions in order to better understand their concerns. When you know what bothers them, you can find common ground and achieve a satisfactory resolution.
If a customer has complained on social media, turn that complaint into an opportunity to publicly demonstrate the excellence of your customer service. In other words, provide a friendly response in which you offer an effective solution — you will not only satisfy that very individual, but you will also show everyone else how much you care for your customers and how great your customer service is. What a great way to boost the awareness of your brand.
AFTER THE CONVERSATION
Your job of resolving online customer complaints does not end when you have provided a satisfactory resolution. You must also follow up with your client to build on the positive experience they had with your company. When you contact your formerly irate customer, check to make sure they still feel satisfied. Afterwards, you can ask their opinion of your products and services, and send them regular updates. When you keep the communication alive, you increase your chance of bringing the customer back for another sale.
Finally, always exceed customer expectations by compensating them for the problems they encountered. Of course, you cannot afford to give them everything you would like, but even a small gesture can go a long way. For example, by offering discounts or small gifts, sending thank-you notes, or linking to free content, you build solidarity between you and your customers that can result in long-lasting relationships. If you give them something without asking anything in return, you show them that you truly are sorry for what they had to go through.
The tips you’ve just read will help you salvage difficult situations in which your customers complain online. Sometimes, those complains will be posted on social media for everyone to see. However, by aiming to win angry customers to your side, you are able to appease them, inspire loyalty, and demonstrate to the world the commitment your company has to customer service excellence. Moreover, the lessons you learn from customer complaints can help you improve your products and services, so keep your mind open and always regard them as new opportunities for growth.