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There’s no getting around it – customer complaints are something that your business, and any business, will have to deal with at some point. Sure, you should do all that you can to minimise these occurrences, but it’s all but impossible to stop them altogether.
This is why the most successful businesses put time, effort and resources into customer complaint resolution.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into 10 common customer complaint examples: what the issue is, why it might happen and how to deal with the customer complaint.
10 common customer complaints
1. Product is out of stock
Complaint: While a product being out of stock can be a positive sign (it’s popular!), it can also annoy customers hoping to buy that product here and now. This situation is made worse if supply issues mean that the product is out of stock for an extended period.
How to handle it: Transparency is key to handling this issue. You need to speak with your supplier to understand when the next shipment will arrive, you need to pass this information onto your customer service and sales teams, and they must in turn pass it on to customers. Be proactive in your customer service, offering to call customers as soon as the next shipment comes in.
2. Broken/defective product
Complaint: When a product breaks or doesn’t perform as it should, you can expect to hear about it. This may not be your fault – it could be that the customer chose the wrong product or used it incorrectly.
How to handle it: If the blame rests with you or the product, apologise and offer a refund or replacement. If an investigation suggests the blame rests with the customer, gently point that out and consider offering a gesture of goodwill to smooth things over.
3. Product doesn’t meet expectations
Complaint: Sometimes complaints arise not from an issue with the product or service, but with the customer’s expectation of it – they thought it would be better or somehow different to the reality.
How to handle it: This is one of the most difficult complaints to deal with. You’ll need to listen to the customer to understand how they developed this expectation, then do what you can to adjust the future expectations of this and other customers. Again, a gesture of goodwill may be worth considering.
4. Preferred payment not accepted
Complaint: You’ve all but made the sale, but there’s a problem – you don’t take payment in the way that the customer wants to make payment.
How to handle it: Apologies, then work with the customer to check if they are able to make payment in any of the ways you accept. Attempt to offer simple solutions. Moving forward, try to accept as many forms of payment as possible.
5. Long hold times
Complaint: If a customer spends what they deem to be an unacceptable amount of time on hold, you can be sure that they’ll tell you.
How to handle it: Long hold times indicate one issue above all else: you don’t have enough representatives available. Consider employing either full-time or temporary workers to bring the average hold time down. Offer customers estimates of how long their wait will be, and give them the opportunity to get a callback.
6. Disinterested customer service
Complaint: A customer wants to hear that your company cares about the issue at hand. Indifference from your customer service staff can cause real damage to your reputation.
How to handle it: Coach your team to care about customer issues, to take each seriously, and to go above and beyond in fixing them. Everyone will have a bad day once in a while, but do what you can to keep customer morale up.
7. Having to restate the issue
Complaint: Customers shouldn’t have to tell their story over and over, reliving their pain or annoyance again and again. This only makes a bad situation worse.
How to handle it: If a customer needs to be passed from one team member to another, you need to ensure that the first person explains the situation to the second. Set up internal processes to make sure this happens, and apologise whenever a customer feels as though they’ve had to repeat themselves.
8. Issue not resolved on first call
Complaint: The customer made contact about an issue expecting it to be resolved then and there, but it wasn’t. Unless the problem is a particularly complex one, they have every right to be annoyed.
How to handle it: First call resolution is super important, as it can prevent up to 67% of customer churn. Arm your team with the skills and tools they need to solve issues themselves. Build KPIs around first call resolutions. Consider adding a self-service portal that allows your customers to solve their own issues.
9. Not following through on promises
Complaint: You said you’d do something, but you didn’t do it. This is perhaps the simplest form of a customer complaint, but it continues to be one of the most common.
How to handle it: The solution is as simple as the problem – if you promise to do something, make sure you do it. Ensure your team knows exactly what they’re responsible for and what they’re allowed to do. Create processes where promises are documented and ensure your team has enough time to do what they need to do.
10. Lack of follow up after the issue is resolved
Complaint: How happy was the customer with the solution that you offered to their problem? You won’t know unless you ask. This is perhaps less a complaint from customers as it is a nice surprise for them.
How to handle it: Once you’ve offered a fix for an issue, follow up in subsequent days to ensure that they’re happy with the resolution. This can reduce instances of follow-up complaints while offering insight into how effective particular solutions are.
10 tips on how to resolve customer complaints
Along with the specific advice on how to handle customer complaints mentioned above, there are a number of tips that apply to all customer complaint situations. Here are 10 things to keep in mind whenever you or your team is faced with a customer complaint.
Stay calm: This can be easier said than done, but arguably the most important thing to do when receiving a customer complaint is to stay calm. Meeting aggravation with aggravation will only escalate the situation. You need to be the level head if the issue is to be resolved.
Put your emotions aside: Further to the above, you should avoid taking any complaint personally. This is hard when you’re proud of your business and see it as an extension of yourself, but customer complaints shouldn’t be interpreted as personal attacks; they should instead be seen as opportunities to improve.
Listen to the customer: You might feel like the issue is trivial or the customer is wrong, but you won’t know that unless you listen. Use active listening techniques and avoid cutting the customer off – hear them out. Giving the customer the time to talk will often calm them down.
Show kindness: A nice word or two can be incredibly disarming, turning an aggressive customer into a calm and reflective one. Tell the customer that you appreciate them reaching out, that you’re here to listen, and that you’ll do all that you can to resolve the issue.
Show understanding: To show you’ve been listening, acknowledge the issue that the customer has had by repeating it back to them. This isn’t about agreeing with the customer or accepting responsibility – it is simply a matter of showing that you understand their situation.
Ask questions: Once you’ve listened to and understood the complaint, it’s your turn to talk. Ask questions that get to the heart of the matter. Work to find out where the fault might lie. Always stay calm and kind. Avoid blaming the customer (even if the blame lies with them.)
Offer an apology: An upset customer will be looking for an apology, so you should swallow your pride and offer one that is appropriate to the situation. If your investigation shows that the blame lies with your company, apologise for that. If the blame lies with the customer, say that you’re sorry they’ve had a poor experience and thank them for reaching out.
Offer a quick resolution: Do all that you can to solve the problem during the first interaction. Ensure team members have the ability to make judgement calls. Sometimes an apology might be enough. Other times a refund, replacement, discount or special deal might be needed.
Document everything: Customer complaints should be seen as opportunities to improve. Document everything, then analyse that information to understand the things you should be working on. It’s also true that from time to time a complaint might escalate to the point where you need this paperwork as proof of how you handled it.
Follow up: Offering a resolution shouldn’t be the last step. You should follow up with the customer in subsequent days or weeks to ensure they’re happy with the resolution, and to solicit feedback on your complaint handling process. Technology can make the process of collecting customer feedback super simple: a tool like Square Feedback offers clear, instant and intelligent insights into how your customer complaint processes are received.
Customer complaints are inevitable; businesses aren’t judged on whether they get them – every business does – but on how they handle them. Happy customers are profitable customers, so if you deal with customer complaints well, you can expect to see the impacts on your bottom line.
If you bring the right mindset, approach, processes and Square technology, you can transform issues into opportunities. Get in touch with the Square team today to find out how.