Make the Most of Complaints

A segment of customer service is dealing with customer complaints. I can’t believe anyone wants complaints about their products, service or employees, but, in the real world, this happens. The way we handle complaints can be a major contribution to our growth and ultimate success. I also might add that I will not say, "The customer is always right,” because I don’t believe so. Sometimes a client can be so difficult and needy that we are better off firing the client. But a word of caution: When the client closes the door, make sure you want to lock it. Once the door is locked, it can be difficult to reopen. People in organizations change, so if you are willing to wait, the personnel will change, too.

Many in small business think dealing with a complaining customer is hard because once a client is complaining, it only can get worst. If the client has an opportunity to complain, he or she will start picking at everything, and it becomes difficult to satisfy the client. For this reason, many of us simply ignore a complaint or wait for the situation to settle down hoping that the one complaining will run out of steam and cool off. The opposite generally is true, and ignoring the problem lets it fester into a bigger problem. Immediately addressing the complaint will resolve the issue quickly more often than not.

Having a policy in place with a quick implementation capability can help cement a stronger and better business relationship with your client. When you are dealing with larger companies, I have found that ensuring the client’s satisfaction can lead to you being recommended to others.

We had a lady who worked in downtown Indianapolis at a major company as a secretary, and then she was moved to a second level buyer position. This young lady ordered product from us on a couple of occasions but then had a slight problem. She had misspelled a word on a promotional product. It clearly was her mistake, but we did a substantial amount of business with her company, so we absorbed the problem, and this kept her from embarrassment to the others in her company. She never forgot that token, even though it wasn’t a large order. A couple of years went by, and this young lady moved to another firm in the same office building. One day she called and asked to speak with me. She said, “Steve, I have been put in charge of a project here at my new position, and we need awards. Can you help?” That order was over $14,000 and taken care of over the phone. She remembered how a complaint (even though it was her fault) had been handled. Sometimes we lose a battle in order to win the war. You can successfully turn complaints into a profit center if you think and do the right thing at the right time.

Train your staff to always be helpful, courteous and knowledgeable.

When we are starting our business, we may be the only employee. But this is the time to establish policies and procedures. Take the time to write down what you do, what works and what doesn’t. Then, start the formulation of your staff policies for the time you are going to start hiring employees. This is the beginning of your policy manual, and it can give your staff the direction they need when you want to grow your business and move to the next level.

I always have thought that one of the most important things we, as business people, can do is to treat others as we want to be treated. Now, while that doesn’t seem too hard to understand, it can be difficult to implement. However, just remembering manners, like being courteous and training our staff to have a knowledge and understanding of what they are selling, might be the beginning steps. To express a kind and caring concern for the client, who is, in essence, our employer, seems to make a good business practice and common sense. This doesn’t always seem to be the norm but often the exception. Keep in mind, every time these employees tell someone who they work for, they are representing your business.

Did you ever try to tell someone about your life accomplishment or what you did well? It can be humbling, and finding the right words can be a challenge. This may be a problem when telling the success story of your company. Some people would think you were bragging and a little, if not a lot, conceited. And I think we all agree that is not the image we want to project in our personal or business life. But how do you tell the buying public that you are good at anything? I think it is hard, so let someone else do it for you. The way to do this is using your satisfied clients' words that are complimentary to you and your business.

Many years ago, we were doing a catalog for our business that we planned on using as a process catalog, which means we designed it from the beginning to show and demonstrate the various processes we do in-house to build confidence in our firm with our client base. Naturally, over the years, we have added additional processes, but this catalog still is used and is a great business tool. We did put actual items in the catalog that could be ordered, but most of those same items also are available today. We made that catalog nearly 15 years ago. That “Featured Presentation” catalog has been and still is used daily in our business, even though we have made many other catalogs. In this catalog, we made an effort to let our clients know more about our business and way of handling business that was different from the competition. We made the decision to include quotes from clients who sent us customer comments, and, over the years, many clients have said they enjoy reading the testimonials. This was not done on every page, but we peppered it throughout the catalog.

This array of testimonials gives your prospects information on your company that builds confidence. If you are fortunate enough to have compliments on service and product, then use both. These are a few examples, so you can start thinking about how you can use your existing clients to attract others.

“I have never had such excellent service from any other company in any business!” -- George G. Wisconsin

“For the cost, the quality is excellent very nice service.” -- Joann S. Utah

“Service excellent your delivery is always on time or earlier.” -- Gerald B. Maine

“You give A-1 service and value for the money. Your organization is very professional.” -- Paul S. New York

You will notice that all of these examples refer to service. This should punctuate how important service is to the buying public.