No matter how good you are at customer service, no matter how well you train your staff and how you conduct yourself, we all have off days. We all have times when things go wrong, when the customer is not happy, and when the expectation of what the customer thought they were going to get and what they actually got is a different story.
It is natural to want to run and hide under a rock when you get average or bad feedback. It is human nature to shy away from that which is not positive. How you deal with customer complaints and disappointments can ultimately show how you will succeed in business, and you should see it as a great opportunity to turn the customer service experience around.
Fronting up and admitting that you’ve made a mistake is hard, but taking the time to show that you truly care and value your guests/ customers experience can often flip what would be a bad experience into a great one.
In many cases when you admit that you are human and look for ways to make it up to a guest they will be far more satisfied.
Knowing how to deal with negative feedback is key to turning a negative experience into a positive one. Here are our top tips to dealing with customer complaints at the first point of contact:
Often we are very quick to try and solve a problem before listening to a problem. We want the bad feeling of dealing with the situation to go away so we rush through the process of dealing with it. However, often through listening you give someone enough space and time to tell you truly what went wrong and why it is so upsetting to them. One of the key things to dealing with a complaint is allowing that person to be heard.
Don’t argue or get defensive
It is natural to get defensive when someone is giving you bad feedback, especially about a business that you put your heart and your soul into each and every day. A key skill of being a good customer service staffer or manager is being able to take it on the chin, set your ego aside, and see what learnings can come out of the situation.
Do you have the right procedures in place to ensure that things like this won’t happen again? This may mean staff training, or it could be looking at your procedures to ensure that you can keep your guests happy in the future. It may also come down to the way you communicate with your guests. Are they getting what they expect to get?
Apologies when warranted
An apology can go a long way to resolving a situation where a guest is less than happy with their experience. Often people will look to fix a problem without listening to the guest, without apologising, and this can result in an artificial and impersonal approach to solving a problem that can still feel very transactional to a guest. You might have solved the problem but they know you didn’t really mean it.
A heartfelt apology can go such a long way to making someone feel heard and valued.
Try and solve the issue as quickly as possible
Try and deal with the issue and resolve it at first point of contact. Referring someone to a manager who is not on shift, or worse asking someone to send their complaint in writing or on social media can be infuriating for the person who feels that their needs have not been met. Dealing with complaints at the first point of contact can often resolve a situation from critical to a good outcome for all involved.
Thank you and learn
Every situation where someone provides feedback that is negative, or complains is a chance to look at how you can do things better. Thank them for taking the time to let you know, many won’t, they just won’t come back and this limits your opportunity to learn from the experience.
No one is perfect and we all need to learn by trial and error. Letting a guest know that you appreciate their feedback is a humbling experience and shows your ability to lead a team. You can’t grow without learning from mistakes and adjusting your sails from time to time when things are not working.
Dealing with conflict, complaints, and negative feedback is never easy but is a critical part of business. Take these opportunities to learn, to grow, and to keep being better each and every day.
Love to hear your thoughts, KB
Kate Bickford MD & Owner - BK AGENCY: