Why Do Your Customers Complain And What Can You Do

As the Internet becomes an increasing part of our lives there are a growing number of web sites which are run for dissatisfied customers to publicly air their complaints about bad service. See your name posted on these sites or get contacted by them and you know you have a problem!

How can you prevent your business from becoming feature of the week? Of all the skills small business owners need these days, the one least practiced is the ability to step back and look at your business from the customers perspective.

Having an effective complaint handling process is important but that is the equivalent of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted its too late, your customer has already suffered.

Its more effective to know what your customers could potentially complaint about and put it right before it happens.

So what are the common reasons for customer complaints? Mark Bradley of Customer Service Network (www.customernet.com), which facilitates in benchmarking, improving processes and implementing improvements to help reduce customer complaints, says,
Financial loss is the obvious reason but the rest can be split into operational and emotional reasons.

In this article we will look at some of the operational and emotional or human issues within your business which could give your customers cause to complain. Take a look at these and examine each part of your business. How do you stand up?

You didnt do what you promised.

When did you last review your advertising material or web site? Do they contain service promises which sounded great at the time but have since been forgotten? For example, do you promise to deliver within 24 hours but changes in processes have meant that is no longer possible? No one may have complained yet but sooner or later someone will.

Your product didnt do what its supposed to do.

When did you last undertake a quality check of your product? Random checks can help weed out poor quality workmanship before a customer spots it. When buying your stock or finished item do you test it?

Youre never open when I need you.

9 to 5, 5 days a week may have been acceptable when you first started out, but is this still what the customer wants? Check with your customers they may want you to open later and close later.

Its a long time before someone answers the phone.

Hanging on the phone while it rings and rings is very irritating. It conjures up images of staff sitting drinking coffee and chatting; not the impression you want to portray and not the way to put customers in a buying mood! Do your staff understand the importance of the phone being answered promptly?

Whenever I ring in and get transferred to another person I often get cut off.

Have your staff been trained in getting the best out of your phone system? Do all staff have a handy list of extension numbers to avoid annoying sorry wrong department answers? Ask a friend or business colleague to ring in and take note of what happens good and bad.

Mark Bradley says, We usually encounter a number of interesting correlations that fundamentally prove that operational accuracy leads to customer satisfaction.

Take some time to look at your business from the customers perspective and you should be able to stop customer complaints before they hit your desk.

Its not only the operational side of the business which can let you down; the human side of business can also generate complaints your staff! No matter how good your product is one loose cannon in your team can upset everything. What actions can your staff take that can lead to a customer picking up the phone or putting pen to paper?

Bad Attitude

Theres no getting away from it some people have a bad hair day every day! The way they speak to people is enough to turn the most mild mannered of customers against your company. They act as if the customer is an interference to their daily routine. A person with poor job skills can be taught the relevant knowledge or skills but a person with a generally bad attitude, the proverbial chip on the shoulder, is harder to bring into line.

These type of people are the ones who never acknowledge your presence when you are standing in front of them, or still chat away on the phone The solution? Get them away from your customers.

Not Willing To Seek a Solution

These people are the ones who may acknowledge a customers problem but just cant be bothered to find a solution; its too much hassle. The stock answer is, I cant help. Its company policy. Their favourite words are I cant, Yes, but, wont, shouldnt. They can find nothing positive to help the customer. If this happens, your customers walk away thinking you are a cant do instead of a can do business.

Not Giving Full Product Explanations

Your product may be the best in the world, but if it doesnt do what the customer wants then you have one unhappy purchaser. Lack of understanding of how the product or service meets the customers requirements could be down to your sales staff being too anxious for a sale persuading the buyer that the product is just right when it clearly doesnt fit what the client needs. This is partly down to sales training but also attitude. Do you want staff that are happy to sell to your customers on this basis?

Not Willing To Admit a Mistake

Isnt it refreshing to hear someone say, Do you know, youre right. We really messed this up. If you get this as an opening line when making a complaint, you immediately know youre in business. However, sometimes getting a business to admit it has made a mistake is like pulling teeth. If youre in the wrong, get your staff to own up and say, Yes, we were wrong, it can take away the emotion which sometimes blocks successful resolution of complaints.

Not Keeping You Up To Date

In any effective complaint handling process, everything can be done according to the book, but it can all be thrown away if the client is not kept up to date. A complaint, followed by days of silence, allows doubt and anger to bubble up again. It may be that the person handling the complaint had a bad time when taking the initial query; hes not motivated to pick up the phone and engage in another torrent of abuse! However, not speaking to the client can only make matters worse, and so guaranteeing that the next call will be even more interesting! Get strong characters to front your complaints, people who are not intimidated and are happy to solve problems.

Broken Promises

This is probably the most frequent reason for human cause of complaint; Yes, Ill do that for you. Leave it to me. What happens? Nothing! The impression given is that your staff just dont care, or that the customer is not important. Impress upon your staff the importance of following through on their promises. Any broken promise will compound a complaint.

So, in what areas are your staff letting you down? Are you doing everything to ensure your staff are treating everyone as loyal customers? Listen to what your staff are saying, and listen to what your customers are telling you. Get the human side of your complaint process right and you have more chance of keeping your customers for life.

The art of complaint handling is not only resolving it to the customers satisfaction; its also about taking action on what you find out and being proactive in finding potential problems before they become problems.

Why You Need An Answering Service?

The integral role played by the telephone as a business communication tool accounts for the growing importance of answering service businesses. All businesses, whether a physician’s private practice, a small construction company, or a conglomerate, rely on the telephone as one of the fastest and most reliable communication tool in their businesses.

Anyone with a busy schedule and a telephone needs an answering service! Answering service can be a real lifesaver to a small business. Many small businesses have neither the time nor the means to take incoming calls during business hours when they are out on jobs — yet those calls represent the very lifeblood of their business! They cannot afford an office; much less a secretary, but they certainly need those phone calls. Unless they can find a reliable and affordable answering service, they will probably have to do without (or ask people to call them only after 7 PM) or use an answering machine (which has a whole set of disadvantages).

Yes, you indeed can use an answering machine but the fact is that people really do not like to talk to machines, if they are unable to reach a human voice easily, they will go somewhere else its a lost business opportunity.

Fortunately, employers are recognizing this problem and solving it by contracting people to answer the phones when they cannot do it themselves. That personal touch you can offer can mean the difference in obtaining or keeping a client. Hiring a professional answering service business assures that you can take messages, deliver specific messages to callers, provide basic information, clarify the intent of calls and even arrange meetings with customers.

Its always in the best interest of small companies to hire an answering service provider to work for the company during the extended business workday, say from 8.00 AM to 8.00 PM or may be even for the rest of the day if your business needs it. Now it doesnt costs an arm or a leg to hire an answering service. Generally, in a competitive market you can get it for as cheap as $30-$50 per month on the lowest slab! So go and hire an answering service provider so that you never lose that customer again.

Why you should Hire Movers

Moving is a difficult and stressful time. There are a lot of things that have to be done and it can take a long time to get everything that you want and need to be done. In most cases, there are so many things that have to be packed and loaded up, that time runs out before it all can be achieved.

It can be a helpful idea to hire movers to help with the load of all the work that needs to be done. Movers are there to help with these things so that your life is easier and you can worry about other things that come up when you are trying to move from one location to another. There are many movers in certain areas. All you have to do is find one that you feel comfortable with and you will be ready for the big move.

The first thing that you should do when you are looking for the right movers to help you is search around. You should call around and find out prices first. Another thing that you can do is asked for references from each company. Most of these companies will have references or former customers to help you get a better idea of what the company is like and what you can expect from them.

Once you find the movers that you want to use, you should reserve them for the date that you are going to need them to move you. Most of the time, movers are booked up. For this reason, you should make the reservation early so that you do not end up with no one on the day of your move. In some cases, you may have to pay a deposit or you will have to give them a credit card number so that they can book you for the date.

Getting movers for your move is a smart thing to do and one that you will appreciate very much. You will be glad that someone else is there to help with the packing and unloading. This is a huge help for anyone that is trying to move and work at the same time. Moving takes a lot of time and there are so many little factors that have to be taken care of before you can actually get into the new place. It is so important to make sure that all the little details are taken care of and when you have movers to worry about the other things, you will feel less stressed and more relaxed.

Movers also have insurance to protect them and you incase any items that you are moving get broken or lost. You should always make sure that the movers provide you with their insurance so that you can feel protected and more comfortable with your decision.

5 Things NOT to Do With Upset Customers

A couple of months ago I had a small kitchen fire in my home. All is well now, but for a few days my family and I camped out in a hotel room and once we returned home we had no oven (it was destroyed in the fire) so we were forced to eat every meal out for several days.

On the day of the fire two representatives from the insurance company told me to “Hold on to your meal receipts, send them to us and we’ll cover your meals plus sales tax.” After the contractors restored my home and we settled back in, I was preparing to mail in my meal receipts for reimbursement and I gave my adjuster a quick call before dropping the envelope of receipts in the mail. He explained that reimbursement was actually for 50% of meals and not 100%. While a partial adjustment made sense to me, I clearly recalled two company representatives promising to “cover meals plus sales tax.”

My adjuster became sarcastic and defensive in both his words and tone and said, “No one in this entire company would have told you we cover 100% of meals. Our policy is to cover 50% because you would have been eating even if the fire had not occurred.”

I was livid. Now it’s no longer about the issue, it’s about the principle. So what did I do? I assembled all the facts that supported my case, presented an opening argument to the company’s corporate office calmly and methodically, and finally delivered a fervent and succinct summation of my evidence and closed the deal—walking away with 100% of my meal charges.

Here’s the lesson here: Had the claims adjuster done and said the right things during my initial phone call, the company would have been able to resolve this problem with a simple explanation and apology. Instead, they paid out nearly $200 more than they had to and had to spend 10 minutes listening to my case.

This costly scenario is played out countless times every day throughout the service sector because employees don’t know how to communicate with upset customers with diplomacy and tact and in such a way that creates calm and goodwill.

In my case, had the claims adjuster responded with, “What we were trying to explain is that your policy covers 50% of your meals plus sales tax. You would have been out of expenses for meals even if you had not experienced the regretful fire. We try to minimize your inconvenience during your loss by covering expenses above and beyond your normal meal expenses. Does this make sense? I’m so sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding has caused you.”

This approach certainly made sense and I would have very likely accepted the 50% policy. But instead, the claim adjuster’s attitude incited me and I was determined to accept nothing but full reimbursement. The wrong approach to an already upset customer only makes them more forceful and often results in a much higher payout from the company. I don’t want you to have to pay one dollar more than you absolutely have to and to help you manage costs better I’ll give you 5 things not to do with upset customers.

1. Don’t tell a customer they are wrong. Telling your customer he is wrong arouses opposition and will make the customer want to battle with you. It’s difficult, under even the most benign situations to change people’s minds. So why make your job harder by starting out on the wrong foot.

2. Don’t argue with a customer. You can never win an argument with your customers. Certainly, you can prove your point and even have the last word, you may even be right, but as far as changing your customer’s mind is concerned, you will probably be just as futile as if you were wrong.

3. Don’t speak with authoritative tone as if you have to prove the customer wrong. Even when the customer is wrong, this is not an appropriate response, as it will put the customer on the defense.

4. Don’t say, “We would never do that.” Instead try, “Tell me about that.”

5. Don’t be afraid to apologize. Offer an apology even when the customer is at fault. An apology is not admission of fault. It can be offered to express regret. For example, “I’m so sorry for any inconvenience this misunderstanding has caused you.”

Never forget in problem situations the issue is not the issue. The way the issue is handled becomes the issue.

6 Tips For Keeping Your Cool When Customers Get Hot

1. Be assertive – not aggressive or passive. My definition of assertion is simple: “Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don’t be mean when you say it.” Let this rule guide your conversations with all customers and you will always be confident, cool, and in control AND you’ll always be professional.

2. Speak more slowly. You’ll be amazed at how much more clearly you can think and how much control and confidence you experience when you consciously slow down your rate of speech. Speak slowly and methodically when your emotional triggers are launched and you’ll maintain poise during difficult conversations.

3. Wait 1-2 seconds before responding. Responding immediately to difficult or tactical customers could result in you saying something you’ll later regret. Before you respond, take a deep breath, wait at least 2 seconds, and think about the best response and the best approach.

4. Take a time-out. When you sense that your buttons have been pushed, take a break. You can tell the customer you need to put him on hold while you review a file, or whatever excuse sounds good at the time. The point is to get away from the customer for a few seconds so you can re-group.

5. Use positive self-talk. I’m going to sound like Dr. Phil on this one, but I’m quite serious. Instead of saying to yourself, “I don’t get paid enough to put up with this ____.” Say something more positive like “This guy really needs my help.” Thinking more positively helps you respond more positively and professionally. Negative thoughts lead to negative words, and it spirals into a very negative situation.

6. Show your power before you use it. Often, a subtle suggestion of your “power” is far more effective than the outright use of your power. As a customer service professional you may have the power to terminate a phone call. You could say to your customer: “If you don’t stop yelling, I will terminate this call.” But, believe it or not, you are far more “powerful” if you say, “I want to help you, but when you yell and cut me off, you make it difficult for me to work with you.” The latter statement demonstrates your power and your message most definitely gets across. The former statement uses up all of your ammunition and won’t usually diffuse an irate customer.

These incredibly simple tips will position you to keep your cool when customers get hot!

Writing Cover Letters That Sizzle

Anything being sent to a decision-maker should sell you, not just state facts. When conducting a job search, your cover letter and resume are in a pile for the decision-maker to review, one by one, along with a vast number of other documents submitted by other hopeful individuals. The odds that YOUR document is the very first ones on the pile are about a zillion to one! This means the decision-maker has probably read X number of cover letters (and resumes) before reaching your set of documents. With that in mind, I never recommend you start the cover letter with the sentence used in so many other letters:

“Pursuant to your recent advertisement in the New York Times for the position of Staff Accountant, I am enclosing my resume for your review.”

B-O-R-I-N-G!! Plus, the decision-maker probably just read this same (or very similar) sentence about five dozen times. Remember, you want to GRAB the decision-maker’s attention and SELL yourself to them.

Since the cover letter is designed to market you to potential employers, don’t state the obvious. If the cover letter does not create a sense of excitement and entice the reader, it is a waste of your time for writing it and a waste of time for the reader reading it.

Keep track of how many times you use the words “I” and/or “my”. After you write the letter, take a pen and circle all the I’s and my’s in the letter: more than five? Time to re-write some of the sentences.

Here’s an illustration of how to do that: instead of writing “I am looking for an opportunity for advancement with a new employer. My background is in retail management and I feel well-qualified for the Store Manager position with your company” you can write, “A background in retail management and proven record of obtaining results as a Store Manager are key elements in qualifying me for consideration as part of your team.”

Remember the PURPOSE of the cover letter: to highlight your background in the right light, sell your skills, and show the potential employer you are worthy of an interview. Explaining what you WANT throughout the letter doesn’t tell the reader the BENEFIT of what you can offer, which is imperative for you to be successful.

One of the techniques I like to use in cover letters is to pull out the top 4 or 5 achievements and mention them in bullet form with the letter. It serves as a wonderful focus point for readers’ eyes and draws their attention immediately to your strengths. Here’s a brief highlight in what would naturally be a longer cover letter:

…Recognized as a top-performer and dedicated professional, my record of achievements include: Generating a 58% increase in new business during tenure as Regional Advertising Manager Boosting client media coverage 50% and developing partnerships with previously unsecured media contacts

There are many ways to say things but, as you can see, some words have a stronger impact on readers than others. In cover letters, e-resumes, and traditional resumes, you can change the reader’s perception in a heartbeat by substituting various words or phrases for more traditional (and outdated) verbiage. See the outline below:

NON-AGGRESSIVE VERBIAGE

Set up entire department from scratch
Worked closely with department heads
Helped produce $3 million in sales
Helped new employees
In-depth knowledge of capital markets and corporate finance
Assisted marketing department in strategies and bids
Reduced expenses by 10%

AGGRESSIVE VERBIAGE

Established department from inception through successful operation
Fostered relationships with department heads
Instrumental in generating $3 million in sales
Aided new employees
Expertise in capital markets and corporate finance
Actively participated in formulating marketing strategies
Slashed (or cut) expenses by 10%

In short, aggressive writing makes you SIZZLE, while passive writing tells your “story.” Remember your goal is to effectively market yourself, not to author your employment biography.