When customers attack!
Customer complaints are something every business will have to deal with – and most of them are pretty genuine and fairly run-of-the-mill. Sometimes though, customer complaints can be downright bizarre!
Like the Japanese man who was arrested for making no fewer than 24,000 toll-free complaint calls over an 8-day period to a phone company in Tokyo because his phone couldn’t pick up radio broadcasts! He also repeatedly hung up immediately after calling. He’s also suspected of making thousands of further calls on public payphones to complain and ‘insult’ the poor hapless customer care employees!
Then there were the customers who complained that their Airbnb was haunted and they wanted a refund of their money. The CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, investigated the complaint. He discovered that, yes, there was indeed a ‘friendly’ ghost, Stanley, on the property as was stated in the listing.
The guests had been aware of Stanley’s purported ‘presence’. He was, in fact, the reason they had booked! However, he had harassed them so much during the night that they felt they deserved a refund.
Unfortunately, Mr Chesky doesn’t tell us whether the guests received their refund. One wonders, though – should part of the money be paid directly to Stanley to improve his frame of mind?
Dealing with unusual complaints in style
Dealing with complaints creatively can be a very effective way of defusing the situation. Customers must feel that you are taking their complaint seriously and with genuine respect. Convince your customers of this and you will be well on your way to resolving their complaint positively – and keeping them as loyal customers.
Here’s an excellent example that is quoted on boredpanda.com. A client could not find her favourite brand of salted popcorn at Tesco’s. She cleverly worded her complaint in a poem that she addressed to Sir Richard Broadbent, the chairman of Tesco’s.
Tesco’s responded in kind! They wrote her a poem that addressed the issue, included a £10,00 gift card, and told her where she could still buy her favourite brand of popcorn. They also thanked her for bringing the matter to their attention.
Sir Richard Branson did something similar. When a customer wrote him a very funny and imaginative letter complaining about the food served on Virgin Atlantic, he was highly amused and responded personally by phone. He then also invited the customer to sit on the next tasting panel to assess the food to be served on the Virgin Atlantic flights!
Humour can be an effective element in lightening the mood of a complaint, though, of course, you must never laugh at the customer. Innocent, a British smoothie company, responded with humourous empathy to a client complaining about unblended banana in the smoothie she had bought. They apologised sincerely and promised it wouldn’t happen again. They hypothesised that the glitch must have been due to a faulty blender or a ‘rogue chimpanzee’!
How to deal with difficult customers
More and more businesses realise that creating exceptional customer experiences is vital for business success these days. There are many new technologies for customer service that can help businesses to create excellent CX. How complaints are dealt with is very important in creating happy customers and building customer loyalty.
Here are some vital points to bear in mind when dealing with customer complaints:
1. Always recognise that a complaint has value
Dealing with an angry customer is not easy, nor is it pleasant. However, even the angriest customer can give you valuable information to improve your customer service, procedures, or products. Never forget that how you deal with the customer will determine whether they remain your customer. It will also determine what they tell their friends about you and the reviews they put on the Internet about your brand.
2. Practice active listening
This means actively engaging with every word the customer says, as well as the emotions that they’re projecting. You must be focused on the whole communication that is happening between you and the customer. Be wholly present in the moment and give the customer your undivided attention. Do not interrupt them, and if necessary, ask relevant questions that will clarify the issue.
3. Apologise sincerely and with real empathy
Show that you understand that they are having a hard time and give them a sincere and genuine apology. Make it clear that you understand their situation and empathise with the frustration that they’re experiencing. Make it clear that want to sort out their problem. Showing the customer that you really care and want to help, will go a long way to defusing the situation. Do not be slow to recompense them if it is warranted.
4. Remain calm!
Never let a customer’s anger spark your own! If you become angry, an already fraught situation will only be made worse. A positive resolution becomes ever less likely. Keep your voice calm and your tone courteous. Avoid any aggressive or negative language. Instead, focus on using positive phrases that will emphasise your genuine desire to help.
5. Personalise the interaction by using the customer’s name
People want to be acknowledged. Using the customer’s name shows that you know you are speaking to a real person and respect them as such. It also reminds them that you are a real person who should be respected in turn. If possible, draw on the customer’s buying history and background information to personalise the interaction.
Remember that an angry customer is not happy with your business at the moment. Their trust in your brand has been compromised. How your staff handle an angry customer’s complaint can start restoring both those elements. This is why it is so important that great customer service skills and training are solidly built into the fabric of your business.