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by Alice Alessandri

Dealing with happy and satisfied customers, those people who make your days enjoyable and your job rewarding, is definitely fulfilling and motivating. However, the difference between a professional and an amateur, lies in their ability to handle complaints, namely to manage the dissatisfied customer. It is in fact when you make a mistake or you are in the wrong, or when a misunderstanding occurs, that you are called on to demonstrate your skills and competences. What follows is my advice to develop both these elements, by better managing complaints.

Bring on the complaints!

I should immediately clarify that any customer who expresses their dissatisfaction openly by complaining and telling you what is wrong, is drawing your attention to their needs and is doing so because they still have trust in you: they are looking for their confidence in you to be confirmed and justified, so they may trust you another time!

The statistics confirm that only 4% of dissatisfied customers express their dissatisfaction, all the others will never come back or will simply stop using your services for reasons that you will never know; hence, you will be unable to act to correct any mistakes or convince them to return.

The dissatisfied customer also wields a certain “power”, as bad word-of-mouth is three times more likely to travel than the good reports of a satisfied customer, because we tend to share bad news rather than the good news!

At some time, you have undoubtedly eaten at a restaurant where you were not happy with the food or the felt the price was too high, yet you paid the bill without comment; once outside, you may have turned to your fellow diners and said, “They won’t be seeing me here again!”. Hence, the restaurateur was unaware of your dissatisfaction and will never again have your custom, but he/she will be none the wiser why and will have no opportunity to rectify the situation.  The next day, you might get to your office and immediately warn your colleagues against eating at that restaurant, possibly enjoying a sense of just revenge.

A problem becomes an opportunity

At this point you may be asking yourself, “But if I behaved correctly 100 times and satisfied my customer each time, can one mistake be enough to strain our relationship?” The answer is ‘yes’!

The good news is that keeping your customer depends not so much on the seriousness of the mistake as on your ability to solve it.

Here’s how to regain customer satisfaction!

Firstly, complaints must be dealt with whether they come via telephone, mail or in person. Very often haste or superficiality may prevent you from picking up the weak signals of dissatisfaction; this is a mistake to be avoided, because only careful attention to detail will enable you to deal with misunderstandings.

If you notice that there is dissatisfaction in the air, you must be ready to listen and listen actively, so you can fully appreciate what your customer wants to tell you. In this delicate phase it is crucial to show you are listening by maintaining eye contact (or voicing your understanding, if you are on the phone) even when your interlocutor is upset or angry. Concentrate on understanding the reasons for their complaints and avoid any distraction; if necessary, choose a convenient space where you can talk without being disturbed.

Resist the temptation to come back with an answer until your customer has finished expressing their reasons, but be ready to ask questions to comprehend further. Pay close attention to nonverbal language and tone.

Plan a solution

Once you understand exactly what has happened, concentrate on finding a solution – don’t get lost in justifications or, even worse, in an attempt to remind the customer of just how well you got on in the past!

Focus on the present and what you can do now, by identifying “who” will do “what” and “when” to resolve the complaint.

Be sure to implement the solution by involving all your staff as necessary and by asking for support, but be equally sure to recognise your own responsibility for managing the situation. Never tell your customer, “It is nothing to do with me, I’ll have to talk to my colleague.Show the utmost commitment to resolving the situation – often your dedication will have a greater impact on the customer than a solution that is found without your personal involvement: whatever you do, never treat the problem lightly or try to laugh it off.  

Once the complaint is resolved, inform your customer directly and explicitly and make sure they feel the matter is resolved to their satisfaction. If you have assigned someone else to manage the problem, still make sure you personally give feedback to the customer.

Satisfied customers are loyal customers – these are the ones that allow companies to prosper over time.

Very often in dealing with complaints, we focus on the dispute, trying to identify who is right or wrong, who is at fault, and why what happened in fact occurred. There is a motto frequently heard in all types of business: “The customer is always right!” I can’t help wondering if this is true, or whether it is in fact impossible. My view is:

The customer is not always right, but they are the be-all and end-all of our work, and as such should be respected.

| partem claram semper aspice |

The photos used - where not owned by the editorial team or our guests - are purchased on Adobe Stock and IStockPhoto or downloaded from platforms such as UnSplash or Pexels.

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Passodue research on issues related to salesmarketing, ethics and the centrality of human beings within the market logic, officially started in 2012. The results derived from our work are described in the publications and in the books you can find in this section.

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Passodue is a consulting and training firm founded in 2011 by Alice Alessandri and Alberto Aleo, who decided to combine their experience and make a change in their personal and professional lives. The aim of their project is to change the mindset of the market with regards to the concepts of “sale”, “marketing” and “leadership”, and to prove that doing business ethically is possible and totally effective.

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