young woman shouting by megaphone

We have all heard, the customer is always right. Now at times the customer may indeed be wrong, but it is not our job to tell them that. It is our job to help them.

This is a good philosophy to have especially with all the social media sites around. Why? Thirty years ago if you were really upset with a particular company and their customer service, you would tell friends and anyone you came into contact, and then move on.

Even 15 years ago, with the arrival of the internet you could create a website to express your opinion. Unfortunately not enough people had the capabilities to do something so technical, so you were still a bit safe. Our most recent friend Social media is instant though! In fact, it only takes a few minutes to create an “I HATE ……. Fan page” on Facebook for thousands of people to see. You can go on Yelp, Google, or any number of review sites and blast away. What is the business owner to do?

1.You can start by empowering your employees to take care of minor problems that arise. This will be different for each business. When one of these issues arise, the employee can offer an apology and then a solution. You want to avoid offering up excuses. People don’t want to hear why it happened, but rather what you are going to do to fix it. Give your employees guidelines as to what they are allowed to do. If the situation is out of their needs have them go to management before the customer feels the need to ask, give your manager the authority to fix it. It should stop at that level because as the higher up the person has to go to get a resolution, the costlier it’s going to get. What you are adding is the time this person is taking out of their day to complain. The customer is going to get what they want in the end, and may still not be too happy. My rule of thumb is fix it early and everyone is happy.

2.If you are the person who takes the complaint, make sure you rectify the situation immediately. If someone has to wait a few days for a solution, they now have a few days to think about it and become angrier.  Once it is fixed, they generally will only remember the positive outcome and that is what they will tell everyone. Often times a complaint isn’t really about the problem, it’s about the customer wanting to be heard and validated that you do care and will take care of it.

3.Making it easy for someone to complain cuts down on the time the customer has to deal with the issue. Management should be readily available to speak with people. If you have a phone system, don’t make people go through 10 prompts to get to a live person. Again they are only going to get more aggravated. You can perhaps have a sign with a phone number, website, or email address that allows customers to give you feedback, both positive and negative.

4.I would suggest that when you do get a complaint be sure and incorporate what you learned into your training with new employees. Learn from your mistake. If a customer does business with you and continually runs into the same problem they may not take the time to complain and just never return. You will never know why they left but your bottom line will feel it. Keep in mind that customers have almost too many choices as to where they can spend their money, but as a business you do not have too many choices as to who your customer is. Keep people happy and they will be loyal to you, even perhaps offering up the golden referral.

When I started waitressing I was given the following poem, take the time to read it:

Remember Me?

Author Unknown

I’m the person who asks: “How long is the wait?”

   You tell me ten minutes…. but it gets very late

I’m the person who sees: The whole staff loiters

  While my waitress does everything But take my order. 

I’m the person who says:

   “That’s not what I ordered… but its O.K.

    I’ll eat it anyway.”

I’m the person who calls:

   To see if my lost item was found

   And all I get is a run around.

I’m the person who leaves:

   With a slight frown

   Cause the hostess is nowhere to be found.

I’m the person who should:

   Write a negative letter

   But feel it wouldn’t make anything better.

Yes, you might say that I’m a good guy…

   That I understand that you kind of try.

   But, please read on and you will see…

   That there’s another side of me.

I’m the person who

   Never comes back

   Because of something you tend to lack.

It amuses me to see you spending

    Thousands of dollars on ads never ending

   In an effort to get me back into your place

   When you hardly even remember my face.

In order to keep me as a guest

   I have but one simple little request…

   When I am here all you have to do

   Is giving me the service I’m entitled to.