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Top ten ways to deal with client complaints


Client complaints don't have to spell doom for your company, Jamie-Natalie Cross explains how to turn a negative situation into a winning opportunity for your business.

From large corporations to small training businesses, client complaints are just part and parcel of professional life. Of course it's not always a reflection on your business approach; if you’re juggling several clients at once the odds are that there will be at least one person who isn’t completely satisfied at any one time.

While it’s easy to play the blame game when things go wrong, if you want to keep the client the best thing is to remain professional and tackle problems quickly and methodically. Solving a problem effectively can also be a great opportunity for your business to create happy clients and perhaps even generate new referrals.

Top tips

  1. Quick thinking: Once you receive a complaint, don’t leave it. Reply to the letter/email/phone call as soon as possible, no matter how outrageous you might think it is.
  2. Observe and take note: Try and be open-minded and understanding about the situation. Write down anything you feel is important and ask questions.
  3. Make an apology: Regardless of your opinion, offering some form of apology can help. While in some cases it may not be legally advisable to apologise, you can still say ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’, ‘I’m sorry that wasn’t our intention’, or ‘I am sorry for your inconvenience’. This shows your sympathy and may help to calm the situation.
  4. Be composed: In high stress situations it’s easy to become irritable, but if you allow this to happen you might say something you regret which could have repercussions for the business. If find yourself becoming irritated, suggest that you’ll call the client back and try to take some time out for yourself to calm down.
  5. Be positive: Try and take an optimistic approach to the problem and  focus on what you can do to help rather than what you can’t do.
  6. Think of your business: Whilst you are dealing with a complaint, show genuine concern. This could help turn the situation into a positive outcome, helping with future business dealings and ultimately aiding your reputation as a company.
  7. Communicate regularly: Keep your client in the know if the problem cannot be solved straight away. They will only become irritated if they don’t know what’s happening, so stay in contact and explain how you’re tackling the problem.
  8. Own the problem: If the problem is yours, take responsibility for it solve it as best you can. If it’s not down to you, find out who is involved and make sure you delegate it properly so that all parties know who is responsible for correcting it. As the first point of contact, the client will be looking to you for answers, so make sure you address that straight away and don’t just leave them hanging on.
  9. Discover the reasons: As well as solving the problem in the here and now, it’s important to understand why the problem happened so it can be avoided in the future. Make a note of lessons learnt and see what you can do to change your processes to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
  10. Serious complaints: If you’ve tried to resolve the problem without success, it might be time to call in a third party, such as your practice manager or a legal adviser who can offer more impartial advice and a new perspective on the problem.

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