Your First Step to Solving Customer Complaints

Part of great customer service is dealing with customer complaints - unless you don’t have any (yea right!?).

What business doesn’t have a problem or “misunderstanding” from time to time?  

In the dry cleaning industry, you get a lot of practice at problem-solving.  Industry statistics show that 90% of the problems are either a result of the customer or the manufacturer.  

Not to sound defensive, but think about it.  Except for the bigger manufacturers, clothiers often don’t have the resources to test garments for how they hold up in cleaning. As a result, you get shrinkage, dye bleeds and a host of other problems.  Add to that, customers spill things on their clothes, rub up against objects as well as just wear their clothes out in the real world and cleaners are expected to make the clothes look new again.

Why Your Natural Instincts Won't Solve the Problem

So what happens when a customer is upset and complains?

The natural reaction is for the customer care representative to feel bad but not know what to say. They feel like their business failed and they feel disappointed for the customer.  

Usually, this reaction is one of awkward silence as a result of not knowing what to say.  So, the customer goes on to further their case by finding other things to complain about.  

Becoming Defensive Won't Help the Situation Either

There’s plenty written on how to handle complaints but here are some tips from personal experience. 

My first approach to this was to teach our staff how to respond to every problem (mostly from a defensive perspective).  

  • Broken buttons? - “Every shirt has 10 buttons and we process 6,000 shirts/week so that’s 60,000 buttons.  We’re bound to miss one every now and then.”   
  • Missing an item? - “we barcode every piece and can confirm without a doubt that we’ve returned every piece to you.”

We had over 6 pages of these kinds of responses which no one could remember.

But then I heard this ...

A Customer Service Approach That Works Wonders 

One day I heard Claudine, a new employee, handle a customer complaint.  After the customer made her emotional complaint, Claudine repeated the complaint back to her without hesitation. “You didn’t get your favorite blouse back with the order?”

Mind blown.

Your Customers Want to Be Heard ... So Listen To Them 

When I overheard the conversation, I was so impressed and made a note to train on this technique to all our customer care representatives.  

I later learned this is the same technique recommended in parenting called "emotional attunement."  In parenting (and customer service), it's important to validate the person's feeling.

Most people don't like complaining or feeling frustrated.  You need to earnestly try and relate to them before trying to fix the situation.

Customers Don't Want Systems, They Want to know you understand the problem

At Fabricare, like many businesses, we have great systems in place that were built over the years to protect from mistakes.

It’s easy to go into defensive mode and talk about what our systems tell us.  

As effective as these systems may be, it is even more important to LISTEN to the customer and empathize with them, just as Claudine did naturally by repeating the issue.

Listening is the First Step to Solving Customer Complaints 

Obviously, this is just the first step towards handling a complaint and each issue will take a different path.  But you have a better chance of resolving an issue if you start off the right way.  

As we noted in the first blog, good customer service is fundamental in how we treat people.

Listening empathetically is a good practice that we can all practice more frequently.

How Has Listening Helped You Improve Customer Service?

Tell us about your experiences in the comments below.