Resolving Customer Complaints by Terrie Brett
In light of the re-introduction of “It’s Our Job” this month, we asked our Contract Liaison Manager Terrie Brett for her tips for resolving customer complaints. Here are her thoughts:
Handling and ultimately resolving customer complaints takes patience, understanding, great listening skills, and a big dose of experience. Yes, it can be hard work at times but when you turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one, it is really rewarding.
I’m lucky to work with a really great customer service team at Novus and alongside my own ideas about how to handle customer complaints, this article really is a team effort that includes their input too.
Listen to the Customer and Avoid Arguments
If I was asked “What are the most important things to remember when handling a customer complaint?” I would say that genuinely listening to the customer would be one of them.
Allow the customer time and space to ‘get it off their chest’ and go from there. Stay calm and respectful and whatever you do, don’t get drawn into an argument.
Making eye contact is really important too in this scenario, as it shows that you are listening and trying to understand what they have to say. Always stay positive and professional with your body language, and try not to appear defensive.
A useful tip i’ve found when handling complaints is to note down as much information as possible and then repeat everything back to the customer, this will make sure I’ve accurately gotten down everything they had to say.
I also think that repeating this information back is a good way of showing that you’ve listened properly.
Finally, offer reassurance that you will investigate their issue and set a reasonable expectation of when you will be able to get back to the customer about it.
Face-to-Face vs. Electronic Communication
Obviously in the current climate, we’ve had to get used to handling situations more remotely than ever before. In some ways this has advantages over face-to-face as with an email for example, you have time to process the situation and find the right wording in your response.
Over the phone or email it can sometimes be easier to speak to a resident (for example) to reassure you have dealt with the situation.
The drawback with an email is that obviously you can’t show expression or convey tone easily, I find people do generally act and react differently over emails.
For some, handling face-to-face complaints can be difficult as customers can become agitated and even intimidating.
In my experience however, I think the customer is actually less likely to be confrontational in a face-to-face scenario, rather than on the phone where people have a tendency to shout more!
To begin to resolve a heated complaint, deescalating the situation should be your first port of call.
Ensure that you’re listening in an active way, adopting a calm demeanour, and offering reassurance to them.
If the conversation takes place in person, remember your facial expressions and body language are really important. Once the situation has cooled down, rational conversation usually follows.
How Customer Service is Changing
In my opinion, over the last few years customer service has extended far beyond what it has been before.
It’s more than being there at the start of a process and dealing with any complaints that might come along the way, it’s now more about being involved at every stage of the customer journey i.e. being a constant presence from start to finish, and being the face they go to and trust with any issues.
Obviously with Novus being a contractor and entering people’s homes, customer service from our side is partly about being there to guide customers through a potentially intrusive time in their lives.
Certainly in recent times as well, there is a lot more consideration that goes into addressing customers’ health (physical and mental) and general wellbeing.
We considered how the pandemic was changing customer service in a previous post too >>
Viewing Complaints as Constructive Criticism
Maybe it’s an odd thing to say, but whilst we don’t want to be getting too many complaints, they are vitally important for highlighting areas that we need to improve on.
Each complaint should highlight something that we can learn from and do better. I see them as having a big influence on my role and our entire service offering at Novus.
Particularly in a time where we are reviewing processes, open to change, and trying to build back better, criticism and failures can be big drivers of positive change.
Do Customer Compliments Matter Then?
Yes! I thrive of having a compliment from a resident, as it makes you feel good about what you do. It shows that you and the team are getting it right and providing that customer with excellent customer service.
For a customer to go out of their way to give positive feedback, that means a lot to us.
I think that compliments are not only a great morale boost though, they also reflect on how the company and its employees are performing generally. The more compliments we get about a certain service or project, the more it means we are heading in the right direction.
The Best Part of My Job
We recently completed a few disability adaptations on a kitchen contract and since then we have received a number of thank you cards from the residents to say how we have changed their lives!
Making a difference to people’s lives is definitely the best part of my job as a CLO.
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