Benchmark Business Group

How Does Your Business Handle Complaints?

April 11, 2023

Does your team see complaints as an inconvenience? Are they perceived as a negative? Are they brushed aside? Do team members feel like complaints lead to them being in trouble?

How a business receives and handles a complaint tells a lot about the culture of the business. Every business makes mistakes. There will be times when your business misses the mark, and a client is unhappy. Accepting that makes it easier to adapt a positive mindset around complaints.

We all know satisfied customers are less likely to speak up. So, complaints are often seen as a negative. However, the true negative is when your clients go silent. If they are complaining, it means that on some level they are still engaged in the process. There is an opportunity to turn this around. If they’re truly upset and have decided not to do business with you, chances are they won’t complain. They’re done engaging at that point.

The key is to listen to complaints without having an emotional reaction, and then act. The action taken should first be about making sure the customer with the complaint is taken care of but should then extend to ensure this complaint doesn’t happen again.

So how can you challenge the way your business views complaints?

Ask for them. Instead of trying to avoid complaints and to condition your team to handle complaints when they do happen, try asking your clients for constructive feedback. Adding a simple, “What can we do better?” on a survey, at the point of sale, in a meeting, etc., can go a long way to make complaints less taboo.

Don’t focus on blame. When a complaint comes into the business, don’t jump to blame. It’s easy to do this. First, the client doesn’t care too much about why or who is to blame. What they do care about is a better experience. Second, if your team members feel that blame is the first response, they’ll avoid complaints. That’s like stepping into a mine field. They won’t want any part of it. Instead, focus on process, structure, and improving the customer experience. If there is blame it will be handled within the solution, but without throwing anyone or anything under the bus.

Listen. Complaints are often emotional. They come from a place of not having an expectation met. And sometimes you won’t be able to meet an expectation, especially if the client wants something that your business can’t or won’t do, but you can always listen. And most people will appreciate it if your team takes the time to listen. Listening means asking questions to understand what’s really upsetting the client. We often see people trying to solve the problem too quickly, but sometimes the act of venting is helpful to the client.

Be slow to “give away.” Complaints should not be the route to “free” things in your business. Although there are times when you might need to give a client something to make up for a bad experience, it shouldn’t be the go-to response. It can create a culture where customers complain to get free things, but also one in which your team discounts the importance of a complaint. Slow down and listen before deciding.

Train your team! Don’t make the assumption that your team will know how to handle complaints. Instead teach them how you want it to be done. We recommend our “Take The H.E.A.T.” as a great training module for your team, but there are also other solutions out there. Find one that fits your business and make sure that your team is up to date with how you handle complaints.

Complaints are often a form of communication that simply says expectations were not met. And while no one wants complaints, if your business has the right mindset around complaints, they are not only easier to digest, but also pave the way to true positive change.

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