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It’s important to understand that most customers don’t complain. This is because they feel that it’s too much effort. They will simply stop using your service or product and move on to a competitor. This ultimately affects the profit margins of a business.

Research shows that up to 85% of customers who moved on to a competitor were satisfied with the service or product received. Clearly, satisfaction isn’t enough and we need to delight customers in the service that they receive in order to ensure retention.

It makes sense to make complaining easy and welcome customer feedback. I know this sounds like asking for trouble but it is feedback for developing your business and this should be viewed as positive.

A good example of this is the ‘goodnight guarantee’ offered by Premier Inn Hotels. They ask guests to bring issues to their attention so that they can gain feedback, in return the guest will receive a no quibble full refund. This has been extremely positive for this business as when booking hotel customers know that they will get a good experience. This has actually increased their revenue and profit margins.

‘The customer is always right’ is a phrase that is often used and it simply means to put your customer first. It is not intended that this is taken literally but in an attempt to make the customers feel special and valued. Customers should always be treated as if they were right, even if they aren’t.

Customer expectations may not always be rational. As customers, we want to receive the best service and best product at the cheapest price. Due to this, our expectations may not always be rational or achievable. That does not mean that our customers are not reasonable. If a customer is asking for something that simply cannot be achieved then take the time to explain this to them. Don’t just say that this cannot be achieved, talk to them about why and offer alternative solutions where you can. This may mean an increase in the cost or a longer waiting time, you cannot assume that this is not something that the customer is willing to do. If in doubt ask!

Customers aren’t always aware of what they actually need, they may ask for a product or service without fully understanding what it is they will be receiving. Take the time to explain to them how the product or service will work and check that this meets their expectations. Taking the time to do this will help to prevent any future issues with complaints.

Don’t make things up and be true to your word. Naturally, you will want to please your customers and to go the extra mile but sometimes there are restrictions on making this happen. Most customers are reasonable if you explain issues to them at the earliest possible time. When it comes to meeting deadlines we need to make sure we don’t compromise is quality, make sure that the product or service will meet or exceed the customer expectations... even if this does mean longer turnaround times.

We all hope that we don’t have to handle complaints but the reality is that from time to time things will go wrong. The challenge is to handle the situation in a way that leaves that customer thinking that you operate a great company. If you are lucky, complaints can even turn into a positive experience for the customer.

Most companies now implement a customer charter, this charter outlines the complaints process, the service levels of complaints to be resolved states the standards and behaviours that customers can expect and any charges that may be applied in this area.