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Marketing / Customer service

How to handle customer complaints

How often are you pleasantly surprised by great customer service? If you’re like me, then sadly not very often. But recently, I had a good customer service experience that demonstrates the best way to handle customer complaints.

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Last winter I had a fire grate made. For $170 I got what appeared to be a solid piece of craftsmanship. But after only twenty fires, it started to lose shape, bend in the middle and generally stop functioning.

Because I generally like to avoid conflict at all costs, I tossed up for a couple of weeks about whether or not to take it back, but I finally decided I should. I was of course expecting the worse – “Sorry mate, our guarantee only extends to 14-days” or “Sorry but you shouldn’t have kept using it.”

To my astonishment the fellow who made it apologised, offered to fix it and/or replace it and advised that it would be all done within two days. The end result was that it was fixed on the same day, at no charge and now works better than ever. And he didn’t even refer to me as “Mate”. As a side issue, I think referring to a customer in this way is very unprofessional. My favoured approach is to use their first name, but that’s another article in itself!

Now, back to my fire grate. Okay, so maybe the problem shouldn’t have arisen in the first place and they should pay more attention to their craftsmanship…but mistakes do happen. From a business owners perspective, the learning here is how you handle customer complaints.

"How you handle customer complaints can create an opportunity to promote your business."

I could almost guarantee the fire grate fellow has had no training in customer service, he just did what seemed right. He listened to the customer, made a judgement that the customer’s request was reasonable and then over-delivered. In fact he under-promised and over-delivered…even better!

Want more articles like this? Check out the customer service section.

This doesn’t mean giving in to every customer’s request – of course there are times when they are simply unreasonable. But it does mean being sensible and mature about your options for the best way to handle customer complaints.

How you handle customer complaints can create an opportunity to promote your business. Handled well, they are a great way to generate word-of-mouth. That said, I’d buy another fire grate tomorrow from Flash Weld in Mornington, Victoria!

Tim Reid

is the host of the Small Business Big Marketing Show that discusses how other small business owners from around the world go about their marketing. It's fun, entertaining and always full of helpful ideas and insights for you to apply to your business....immediately!

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