We have all had those moments when we were disappointed with a product or service. So, we typically reach out to share our feelings and seek some sort of resolution. What happens next matters. How do you handle it?
As CEO, a number of client issues get escalated to me – either by a member of our team or by the clients themselves. I have seen this play out in a variety of ways, including extreme examples when business owners and leaders handled themselves in a very unprofessional manner. They leave a lasting impression and probably not the one they wanted.
The biggest takeaway: Speaking up about a complaint you have about a product or service is important, but how you communicate that complaint has a direct impact on how the issue is resolved. So, what’s the best way?
Here are a few tips:
- Maintain composure.
You can be disappointed, even angry, but yelling and name calling have no place in any business conversation. Louder is not better and won’t get you a resolution faster. Keep your emotions in check and maintain a level head. Consider how you would want to receive the message.
- Set the right tone.
This is where I see customers fail most often when complaining. You need to set the right tone, regardless of the channel you use. Email can be trickier than a phone call. It’s okay to be firm and direct, but focus on maintaining a level of respect and present an attitude toward a fair resolution.
- Seek first to understand.
You may think you know what caused the issue; don’t assume you’re always right. In my experience, so often we are dealing with a lot of unsubstantiated and inaccurate information. Instead of blaming and calling people out, clearly identify the issue and ask questions that promote a resolution. Be genuinely open to hearing the other side of the story.
- Use proper language.
Don’t swear or use condescending language. It’s really unprofessional and shifts the focus from the issue to you. Write out your issue with as many specifics as you have. Then, re-read it and you might even want to have someone else read it before you share it. Check it to make sure you are communicating in a proper and professional manner. Avoid absolutes like “never” and “always.” They are not accurate.
- Don’t threaten.
No matter how big of an issue it is, avoid making any threats. This includes legal action (recognizing it could still end up that way). Lead with good intentions and professionalism. You’ll have better outcomes.
- Use the correct channel.
Don’t post a poor review on the organization’s social media as your way to communicate an issue. It does get attention, but not the kind that works in your favor. It suggests that you are not interested in a resolution. Seek out the person or department that you initiated the business relationship with. Only vault when you feel like the issue is not being handled to your expectations.
I believe when customers escalate to me, they should be prepared for transparency on the issue and the resolution. I don’t think the customer is always right, but they should always be given the opportunity for us to make it right.
Relationships get tested when there is a problem, not when things are going smoothly. If we do a good job resolving customer complaints, they should ultimately be a good reference for us.