6 suggestions to help small businesses deal with consumer complaints

“The customer is always right.” That’s a customer service mantra. Though (sometimes) it has no grounds in logic or reality, it’s best for owners to sing along. It’s not intuitive to side with a complaining customer; and, sometimes an owner has to ultimately agree to disagree. However, it’s advantageous to be mindful of particular ways to diffuse the dissatisfaction or ire of consumers and related complaints.

Recognition

Have you ever noticed some consumers sounding complaints via Twitter or Facebook, directing their message at brands only to get no response? Depending on resources at hand, it may not always be possible to immediately respond; yet, recognizing a customer with a complaint is necessary. It’s a reflection upon your desire to serve your customers, all of them, Do your best to respond by a letter, email, tweet, Facebook comment, or other form of communication.

Take note

Take note of the concerns of the consumer (regardless of how zany it may seem). This enables you to later disconnect immediate emotion from the facts of the matter. In some cases, you may find a zany complaint not so zany after you have time to get over the initial impact of a negative review or complaint. Also, taking notes allows an owner to see patterns forming, which may be counter-intuitive to initial hopes aligned to a particular campaign.

Address the person

At first, a viable resolution may not be apparent or even necessary. However, this person did have an interaction with your brand, a negative one. You may not be able to reverse the negativity, but a personal address can alleviate some of the negativity. Ensure you let the disgruntled consumer know you are saddened by their dissatisfaction; and it was not your intent to disappoint them. Sometimes treating consumers as people and not problems can turn a consumer with an issue into a brand advocate. Passion is behind the dissatisfaction. That passion is malleable, possibly molding complaining into championing.

Void of emotion

This is more easily said than performed; yet, maintaining composure is an absolute necessity when it comes to resolving customer complaints. Regardless of how off the wall or emotional a customer gets, rationality will win in the end. Sift through insults and accusations to get at the heart of the consumer’s issue. Let them know you intend to interact in a personable and respectful manner. Not only is this disarming, but remember, other consumers are watching how you treat customers. Maintaining a rationale and even tone preserves your brand’s integrity.

Be positive

Your focus needs to be on a solution and not the complaint. Doing so enables you to stay positive during the ordeal. Moreover, as relayed above, this is an exercise in branding as well as diffusing an isolated situation.

Follow up

Don’t (just) attempt to remedy a situation then and there. Follow up with the consumer after the fact. Not only does this show great customer service, it shows you care about your customers. If you can follow-up with them publicly, all the better; it allows for further branding of your company.

Be consistent

Be consistent in dealing with varieties of consumer complaints. The complaints will differ; yet, ensure your process of address and diffusing is the same so that you don’t appear to appease some customer while alienating others. Nothing is worse than being known for being inconsistent with your consumers.

About the Author:
Valerie Cecil is a research coordinator, marketing specialist and writer for Outbounding.com. Her work allows her to investigate many topics, ranging from online consumer relations to effective communication in the workplace. When she is not working, she enjoys kayaking, watercolor, and scouting out the cutest small gift boxes she can find.

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