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5 Takeaways from Handling a Real-Life Customer Complaint

It’s all in how you handle it.

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RECENTLY, WE HAD a couple of people leave us negative feedback on our Facebook page. Getting two in two weeks is an anomaly for us, and it made me think about how we handle them.

What I learned is that how a complaint is handled is as important as the complaint itself. Customers want to know that they matter. In this world where no one ever answers the phone, and most transactions are conducted without human interaction, people appreciate the personal touch.

We start this process by replying as soon as a message comes into our inbox. Sometimes it is a simple acknowledgement that we got their message and that we will be following up.

The complaint we received came into our Facebook inbox on a Sunday, when we are closed, but we still replied to the sender within an hour, letting him know we would contact him in the morning after we reviewed the notes on his pet.

The next morning, we had a chance to review the notes and follow up with the customer over the phone. Though we weren’t able to give him the answers he was looking for, he told us that our apology was the only thing that mattered, and he was glad that his complaint got the right attention.

The first thing we did was to take ownership of the problem, and we didn’t question his statements. Too often, business owners go on the defensive as soon as someone brings a complaint to them, especially if they see gaps in the complaint or if they don’t have a positive impression of the person making the complaint. It is important to disassociate the complaint from the person making it. Had we looked at the way the complaint was written (full of typos and errors), it would have clouded our response, and we would not have gotten the reply we did.

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It is always preferable that the resolution and communication with the customer be done via phone or in person. This allows for more dialogue, and it also allows you to display genuine concern and empathy toward the customer and the situation. A written follow-up is highly recommended to summarize and reinforce the agreed-upon resolution.

As business owners, we always hope never to see a complaint from a customer, but we have to remember that a complaint is an opportunity to turn an occasional customer into a loyal one.

Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+'s editors at editor@petsplusmag.com.

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