In this edition of Community Chest, we look to the business community to answer how to effectively handle a customer complaint and potentially turn it into a positive.

A business can live or die on its reputation. That’s why so many spend so much time and money training their staff to provide a first-class service to the customer at every stage of their journey. But people are human, and occasionally service can fall short of what is expected. That’s why we scoured the community to find out the best techniques to turning an angry customer into a loyal one.

Don’t attempt to change their mind

Don’t approach a situation with the mind set of changing theirs. Instead, aim to understand what their frustration is. Once you do, you’ll be in a better place to remedy the situation.

Listen and learn

See each complaint as an opportunity to practice listening. In some instances, an angry customer will just want to vent their initial frustration and come away feeling that they have been listened to, so take the cotton wool out of your ears and stuff it in your mouth!

While it is difficult to sit there while someone shouts at you the worst thing you can do is match tone. Instead, keep your tone low and steady and let them speak, even if what you’re hearing isn’t the full story, the worst thing you can do is interrupt.

Repeat after me

At the end of the conversation, repeat back some of the customers’ concerns and frustrations, this highlights to them that you have been listening. Also give them clear instructions on what you are going to do to help them and a time frame in which you will get back to them.

Do what you say you will

Even if you fail to achieve what you set out to within the time frame, contact the customer when you say you will. Be honest about what you have been able to get done, and set a new time frame if needed. A customer will appreciate the call even if a solution hasn’t been reached rather than a broken promise.

Put yourself in their shoes

We’re all customers, therefore when we deal with a complaint it should be easy to empathise with the customer. Often, an initial response filled with empathy can stem any further animosity.

Admit when you’re wrong 

In this day and age of claims and legal action, the fear of admitting liability can be all too real for most. But the truth is that acknowledging where you have failed and admitting you are wrong can go a big way to solving most issues. Elton John put it best, when he said: ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’.

If there’s a problem, fix it

Do whatever it takes to fix the problem. Even if the solution comes at a cost to the business, it is far less expensive than having an unhappy customer, and could even turn the complainant into a fan. People will be more likely to show loyalty to a business that seemingly bent over backwards to fix a problem.

You can’t win them all 

If you do all the above and still have an angry customer, remember that you can’t win them all. Also, don’t allow a customer to overstep the mark with rude, offensive or derogatory language to your staff. Frustrations are one thing, but bullying and harassment of your staff should never be tolerated.

If you have a question you’d like answered by the business community, or you have advice and guidance you think will be relevant on one of our current topics email or visit our FacebookLinkedIn or Twitter pages and use hashtag #MSLCommunityChest