9 Step Plan For Resolving Customer Complaints

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by Tom Watson on July 11, 2010

When you start a cleaning business you will encounter customers who will complain at some point. There is no way around it. So it pays to have a plan in place that turns that upside-down smile right side up again.

Some are easier to please than others. Some customers feel “bad” about calling while others will dramatically over-state the problem. For instance I once had a customer call me and explain the condition of his facility was “deplorable”.  So I responded by immediately running over to see for myself.

What did I find upon arrival?

One dust bunny under a desk and some grass clippings next to a side door (the landscaper had cut the lawn and grass found it’s way in from under the poorly sealed outside door after we cleaned). Now keep in mind that the facility was not a one room office, but a 7,000 square foot office building! It was quite a stretch to call it “deplorable”.

I was expecting to be shown much more than that. But that is how the customer interaction will go many times. How you handle situations like this will go a long way in deciding how successful you will be. It would have been very easy for me to downplay the importance of the complaint. But this would have just made the everything worse.

In situations like this My 9 Step Plan comes in handy.

Usually the customer complaint comes in via the phone, so I’ll detail the plan as if that’s the case. With that in mind…here comes one irate customer. What do you do? What do you say?

1.    “Thank you for letting us know”.

This should be the first words out of your mouth (I know…you had other words in mind, but those four letter words will cost you dearly so lets stick to the script). At the end of the day you should be thankful the customer is letting you know what is wrong (you should have found it first, but that’s another story). When you look at this through the customers eyes, it really takes a lot of courage for most people to actually call and complain. So be courteous and “thank them enthusiastically”.

2.   “I sincerely apologize for the disruption this has caused you”.

Next you need to apologize. Many companies feel as though by apologizing they are “admitting guilt”. Forget about who is responsible for right now, it doesn’t matter. The customer was inconvenienced no matter what happened. Besides…you need to get the fire under control before you can stomp it out. You need to calm them down and this act of contrition will help.

3.    “Let me reassure you we will do everything possible to correct this”.

You know that you must do whatever it takes to make them happy, so why not let them know up-front. This will help ease their concerns by letting them know you are not “ducking your responsibilities”.

4.    “Let me make sure I got this right, your concerns are…”

This is where your carefully probe to find the exact problem. Remember the customer is ticked off and may overstate the problem (remember the dust-bunny story I mentioned?). Zero in on the real issues and restate them back to the customer. This will make sure you are both on the same page.

5.    Put a big smile on your face and go fix it.

This is the point where you take actual action. Either you or your staff needs to address the problem completely. Making a half baked effort and will only make your problem worse so go all out and fix it the first time.

6.    Do something extra in addition to fixing the original problem.

Maybe there is some carpet stains you could remove, or maybe the plate glass in the front of building could be cleaned. The point is to “atone” for the inconvenience that they experienced. Remember…if you run a first class company you don’t want to just meet expectations, you want to exceed them. Doing something extra helps you do just that.

7.    Call the customer the next next day and review what was done.

This is a very important step. Call them and explain exactly what was done. If for some reason you failed, be honest and explain what happened. Chances are that if you went through all the steps here you made them happy. Most people are not crazed maniacs and will recognize the effort that was made. If they were pleased with what you did to correct the issue, make mention of the extra work you threw in. Just say “we took care of (insert extra work here) while we were there as well to help make up for the inconvenience that was caused”.

8.    Thank them again for bringing this to your attention.

YES…you have to thank them again. After all…they could have just fired your butt!

9.    Wait three days then send them a personal note.

Write a short little bit about how much you appreciate their business. Make a passing mention of the inconvenience they suffered and thank them again for letting you know. Keep it short and sweet. One paragraph is enough for this step.

Odds are you just made them happy.

Following the nine steps I just outlined will help turn those irate customers into raging cheerleaders for your business. The truly savvy business people know that the cheapest and most effective way to grow your business is by making your existing customers into your De facto sales force. You do this by exceeding the expectations of the customer. Taking these 9 steps will surely help you do just that.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Wayne garcia March 30, 2015 at 5:27 pm

That’s excellent advice! I have to go out and deal with a complaint tomorrow! Even though I’m right. I don’t want bad reviews so I need to smile and fix problem!

2 Tom Watson March 30, 2015 at 6:57 pm

Yea Wayne! SMILE as much as possible then FIX IT. You do that, you’ll be good!

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