Turning complaints into compliments

Women talking to man in cafe

Complaints can sometimes be hard to hear, but often they are a blessing in disguise. Word of mouth has always been an important source of referrals, but now social media and online rating systems mean that your customers have an immediate channel to communicate what they think at any time of the day or night. Now, more than ever it’s important to resolve any complaints quickly and professionally before they can damage your reputation.

Here are 5 steps to help you sharpen your skills:

  1. Listen to what the customer is saying – not how they are saying it. Active listening means that you ask questions to help really get to the bottom of what the problem is, rather than just brushing off any concerns they might have. When the customer has finished explaining, repeat what you have heard back to them to ensure that you have the correct information. Agree the next steps with the customer, which is likely to be an investigation into the situation and then put together a timeline around what you will do to resolve the problem and stick to it. Ensure that you communicate back to them to tell them what you have done to resolve it, otherwise you could exacerbate the issue.

  2. Apologise and be empathetic – empathy goes a long way. Selling and buying a house can be one of the most stressful and life changing situations customers find themselves in. Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand how they feel. Being empathetic and understanding can really help build a close relationship with your customers.

  3. Take the high road – there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling that you are right and someone else is wrong - but feeling wronged doesn't necessarily mean that you’ve been wronged. It can be hard not to get emotional. Always take the high road, move forward and focus on the solution and end game - achieving results is always going to be more important than being right.

  4. Fix it - focus on the solution and not the problem. Focusing on the problem rarely helps matters. Instead, it wastes time and energy dwelling on it. Putting your energy into solving a problem means you are more likely to solve it and end up with a happy customer. Think to yourself, how could I fix it and make it better for the customer?

  5. A gift goes a long way – a gift is a physical reminder that you are thinking of the person and that you care. It often gives you a chance to check back in with the customer and ensure that they are happy with the solution. But before you reach for the bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers - take a moment to check what the customer might like or not like, and consider the current situation, and then work out what’s appropriate.

Complaints can help you sharpen your game, improve your service and help you give customers what they really want. If you can deal with complaints in the right way, it can result in a positive experience and even a customer for life.