For every customer who actually comes to complain to you, there is a quantum number that won’t. They are the ones who go off and tell somebody else, complain about you online, and take their business elsewhere.
Let’s say one out of 100 of your customers actually come to you with their complaint. Shouldn’t you really value that person times 100? Because they’re representing all the other people who never came to you, you should be happy—or if not happy, at least very appreciative—when someone actually takes the time to give you a second chance.
There are ways you can use customer complaints to uplift your service and improve the experience for all your customers in the future.
1. Thank them for their complaint.
Give positive recognition by saying, right off the bat, “Thank you for reaching out.”
Show appreciation for the complaining customer’s time, effort, communication, feedback, and suggestions. Always keep in mind that the customer didn’t have to come to you at all. He could have simply taken his business to your competitor. When a customer gives you the opportunity to recover their service, be grateful.
2. Don’t be defensive.
It’s easy to get defensive when an angry customer is on the other end of the line. Customers with complaints exaggerate situations, they get confused, and yes, they may even lie about how things went down. It’s tempting to just blow off the customer, but getting defensive will only lead to more problems.
When you get defensive, you raise the temperature even higher. Think about the last time you had a disagreement with your spouse. How did it make you feel when he or she told you that you were wrong about something or completely denied that a set of events happened the way you said they happened? You were probably not very happy.
When a customer complains, they’re doing so because they feel they were wronged in some way. You don’t have to agree with what they’re saying, but you do have to agree to hear them out. That’s how you keep the conversation moving in a positive direction.
3. Acknowledge what’s important to them.
Service providers must find out what is important to the complaining customer. Even if you think the customer’s complaint is unfair, there is something they value that your company didn’t deliver on. Find out what they value and embrace it.
What the customer wants is to feel right. When you agree with their value dimension, you’re telling them they are right to value this specific thing. For example, if a customer says your service was slow, then that customer values speed. You might say, "Absolutely, you deserve quick, efficient service".
Or if a customer says your staff was rude, you might say, "We do agree that you should be treated with courtesy and respect every time you come to our store".
When you validate what a customer values, you aren’t agreeing with them that your service is slow or that your staff is rude. Instead you are saying, "We agree with you on what you find important and what you value. And we want to deliver in those areas".
4. Use judo, not boxing.
In boxing, you go right after your opponent, trying to punch him to the ground. In judo, you work with someone else’s motions to create a desired result. You use another person’s speed and energy to spin him around and then end up together on the same side.
When you show a customer you understand what they value, you’re catching them off guard with your own movement. They don’t expect you to tell them that they’re right. Suddenly, just as you might do in judo, you’ve avoided a defensive confrontation and you can spin them. In judo, you’d spin them to the ground. In customer service, you use the opportunity to show the customer that you’re now both on the same side and you can work together.