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How to handle customer complaints

Checklist

  1. 1 Actively encourage feedback from customers - including complaints if they are dissatisfied.
  2. 2 Establish a clear complaints-handling procedure; ensure that all employees who come into contact with customers understand it.
  3. 3 Be polite and sympathetic; listen to what the customer has to say.
  4. 4 Take ownership of the complaint; give your name as a contact even if you will have to involve others in resolving the complaint.
  5. 5 Establish the facts; consider whether any internal investigation is needed to gather further information.
  6. 6 Record the details of the complaint, including when it was made, customer name and contact details.
  7. 7 If possible, deal with the complaint immediately; if necessary, agree a deadline for getting back to the customer.
  8. 8 Carry out any necessary further investigations.
  9. 9 If the complaint has potentially significant legal consequences, contact your legal adviser.
  10. 10 If there is a long delay, keep the customer informed of progress.
  11. 11 Once you have established that the complaint is justified, make appropriate restitution; apologise for your error.
  12. 12 Be prepared to reject unreasonable complaints or unreasonable demands, but in a positive way: explain what you can offer.
  13. 13 If appropriate, take internal action to prevent the problem recurring for example, training staff or improving systems.
  14. 14 Follow up by contacting the customer to check that the complaint has been resolved to their satisfaction.

Cardinal rules

Do:

  • encourage feedback
  • be polite and sympathetic
  • take ownership of any problems
  • deal with complaints as quickly as possible
  • address the underlying causes of problems

Don't:

  • be defensive
  • pass the buck
  • make excuses