The Art of Dealing with Customer Complaints

There are few who would argue that, as a society, we’re living in an entitled universe. We expect things to be perfect—especially when it comes to the exchange of currency for goods and services. And if something in this exchange should happen to fall slightly short of our expectations? Well, that’s a 10-paragraph one-star review on Yelp! Does this seem fair? Absolutely not. But before we lose our collective minds in the Department of Outrage, let’s delve into some helpful advice. Today, we present to you the art of dealing with customer complaints.

If you own—or plan to own—a franchise, you will undoubtedly deal with customer complaints at some point in your day-to-day operations. This is a fact of life whether you sell hamburgers or legal advice. An unhappy customer is more common than you think. But coming up with an uncommon approach in dealing with their concerns will set you apart from your competition and possibly raise your status and reputation along the way.

Let’s look first at the central premise of how the customer is “…always right.” Yes, but to a point. We say yes simply because the customer is right if you intend to benefit from their purchasing power. But there are limits. Years ago, a customer filed a formal complaint with Southwest Airlines regarding a flight in which the traveler felt like they experienced a less than perfect interaction with a flight attendant. The airline conducted an internal investigation and found several mitigating factors which weakened the customer’s central argument. In a legendary turn of events, Southwest Airlines CEO sent a personal letter to the complainer, casually pointing out that they were now welcome to fly with any of Southwest’s competition in the marketplace. If you get the drift.

When dealing with customer complaints, there are a few universal truths. The first of these is speed. Complaints must be dealt with quickly and attentively. Before all the facts of the dispute are in, let the unsatisfied customer know that you are on the case and well on your way to finding a mutually beneficial resolution.

Rule #2, learn and display empathy. People complain for many reasons and they may not always be in the right. But you, as a franchise owner, need to find the means to put yourself in their shoes to discover their motivations. Empathy is a logical step in resolving a customer complaint. Picture this example: Yes, as a dry cleaner, we realize that temporarily misplacing your suit caused you to have to wear gray to the funeral. We’re very sorry and would like to offer you a free dry cleaning session the next time around.

Did you catch that?

The final part of dealing with a customer complaint must include some form of restitution on a scale commensurate with the inconvenience of the episode. Got a fast food order wrong? Free fries. You, as the franchise owner, have the ability to “make things right”. Never miss an opportunity to do so. Oftentimes, a customer who has received restitution will immediately be back in your good graces. And the word of mouth fallout from the episode may even bolster your reputation going forward. 

Franchises and other small businesses live and die by their reputations. Especially in today’s hyper-sensitive social media whirlwind. Do your best to put the best face possible on conflict resolution. And take the necessary steps to ensure that the reasons for the customer complaints are eliminated. 

At the end of the day, you should know how to inherently handle a customer complaint. No doubt you’ve been on the other end yourself. As a franchise owner, put what you’ve learned into practice. It’s your turn now.

Let’s chat! There’s a local FranNet consultant right in your market who knows that market inside and out – knows the personality of the market – knows the competitive landscape. FranNet has a great track record of assisting individuals on their path to entrepreneurship, and one of our franchise experts would love to provide you with guidance free of charge. Sound like something you might be interested in? Get started here and find your local consultant right now!

Jan 22, 2018