By Theresa Lutge-Smith

 guest blogger for Imaginet

Ever-changing consumer expectations necessitate that service providers continually reassess their product offerings, marketing tactics, and customer service. Even companies that boast minimal complaints from unhappy clients recognize that they need to regularly update their customer understanding to keep the process streamlined. They also need to identify fundamental changes in market environments and customer preferences if they are to avoid falling into the complacency trap of ‘business as usual’ in the face of dynamic change. However, even if a company makes every effort to market quality products and deliver exceptional customer service it’s not possible to please everyone all the time. Eleanor Roosevelt said it best with her quote, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

When faced with challenging customer complaints a company’s first reaction is that their public image will be irreparably damaged. Although this might be a real possibility, negative feedback from customers should be viewed as a welcome wake-up call, an opportunity to renew their brand, maximize customer service, revamp their image and market focus, implement an annual employee-value survey and an ongoing staff training program, monitor consistency between departments, identify needed improvement in policies and procedures, keep senior management and stakeholders informed, explore new business opportunities, build customer loyalty and reinstate company ethics. In a bid to protect their reputation and maintain a competitive edge, many companies pinpoint what differentiates their products and services relative to their competitors in terms of price, product packaging, multiple product options, and quality of service options.

Common sense tells us that customer service is important to any company’s survival. We are hearing more and more complaints from customers about frontline staff who are surly, ill-informed, and unable to resolve a query or return; complaints are met with resistance and excuses, and worst of all, customers are accused as being technologically inept or ignorant about how the company in question operates. Surely customers, the lifeblood of any organization, should not get the short end of the stick if sales and service people are agitated from an unrelated issue or have poor people skills. With so many buying choices today managing customer expectations in a polite and constructive way can make a huge difference to whether a customer remains loyal to a company or not. Bear in mind that satisfied customers might tell 3 friends about their positive business experience, while disgruntled customers have the power (especially using today’s social media tools) to ‘spread the word’ to at least 3-thousand other people.

When a company receives a customer complaint its staff has two options: dismiss the problem as trivial or pull out all the stops to rectify matters. When dealing with a difficult customer make sure you stay calm and polite. Allow the irate customer to vent; just by listening will dramatically improve their mood. Take notes of what the complaint is about; when the customer is done explaining go through your notes to verify the complaint. By discovering the root cause for the complaint the company can then work to fix the problem as deemed appropriate. Aspire to develop exceptional CRM by keeping the lines of communication open between you and your customers. Make it easy for unhappy customers to tell your company what their problems are. Keep records and analyze why complaints occur.


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