No matter how hard you try, you'll never be able to prevent all your small-business customers from complaining sometimes. However, responding to customers' complaints using smart customer service tactics can be a winning proposition.
Let's take a look at the eight most common customer complaints and how you might respond to each:
1. "Your Product Doesn’t Do What I Thought"
Find out what your customer's expectations were when they decided to buy from your company. Were these realistic? If your company doesn't correctly set expectations, customers will often set their own. Unfortunately, complaints happen when these two sets of expectations differ drastically. Over-promising, no matter how badly you need the sale, will lead to dissatisfied customers who tell others about their bad experience. If the product or service didn't meet the customer’s expectations, offering a prompt refund is the quickest way to disarm their anger.
2. "You Didn't Do What You Promised"
This complaint is closely tied to the previous one but with a twist: In this case, you promised something to a dissatisfied customer, then didn't follow through. This is a very difficult situation to recover from, so your best bet is never to get into this situation in the first place. You need to try to do whatever is necessary to ensure that any promise you or an employee makes to a customer is realistic and can always be kept. If there's any doubt about your ability to deliver on a promise, don't make one. Remember: Not every complaint needs to be resolved immediately. Many customers just want to be heard.
3. "No One Ever Calls Me Back"
Poor communication is probably the most common customer complaint. At the same time, because of the myriad ways in which customers can contact you, it's become difficult for companies to be as responsive as customers expect. Determine which ways customers reach out to your company, and monitor each of these channels with enough staff to respond in an appropriate amount of time. For example, email should be responded to within 12 hours, while tweets need to be answered within 15 minutes.
4. "I Keep Getting Transferred From Person to Person"
Having to explain their problems over and over to multiple people can aggravate customers. Train your staff to take responsibility for each incoming inquiry and keep ownership of it all the way through the process to the final resolution. This will prevent any one customer from falling through the cracks.
5. "You Have no Idea What You're Talking About"
Your employees' ability to deal with a wide variety of customer complaints will vary. Training and testing each employee on the widest variety of issues possible can help, along with holding them responsible for making the best resolution for each customer.
6. "You Were Impatient and Nasty to Me on the Phone"
Frustrated customers can be mean, and tired customer service employees can be short on patience. This can make for a volatile combination. Ensure that your frontline employees have plenty of positive support, rest and enough breaks to prevent visible stress from creeping into customer calls.
7. "Stop Trying to Sell Me More Stuff"
A dissatisfied customer hates getting constant solicitations to buy more of your products. Instead of a hard sell, stay in touch by sending them articles that have value (and show off your company's expertise) so you can be there when they're ready to buy again.
8. "Your Competitor Said They Would do X, Y and Z"
In an effort to get something from a company, some customers will assert that a competitor will do that thing they want and therefore, you should as well. Don't believe every customer—some can lie to get what they want (though don't call them out either!). If it's something you just can't provide, politely tell your customer that. But if you think the request is reasonable and makes good business sense, grant it. And if you're told the same thing from multiple customers about what a competitor offers, look into it—you may just need to begin offering it as part of a standard purchase in order to keep up.
Read more articles on customer service.
This article was originally published on August 13, 2014.