5 Steps to turn complaints into loyal customers

Angry customers can seem like our worst nightmare. But, if you handle them right, they can be your company’s best friend. Because when you do listen to angry customers, you get a lot in return. Complaining customers often have valuable information about how you can improve your business. And, when you listen sincerely, you make it more likely they will stay with you.

Here are five things you can do to convert angry customers into valuable partners who will help you improve and promote your business.

1. Listen sincerely

This is where you win or lose with an angry customer. They are complaining because they want to be heard. No matter what their issue, you need to listen. Focus on them (don’t multi-task). Take notes so they know you’re serious. Then clarify you understand by confirming with them.

For example: “Mr. Smith, if I understand you correctly…”

2. Apologize

After listening sincerely, the best thing you can do is apologize. Don’t waffle and say “I’m sorry if you feel that way”. That’s not really an apology and it might make them more angry.

Make it real and genuine. “Mrs. Jones, I’m really sorry this happened. I can understand why you would feel like you do.”

When you apologize you are NOT taking responsibility for causing the problem. You ARE taking responsibility for finding a resolution. That’s what complaining customers want.

3. Thank them

This might sound difficult to do. But it’s just as important as listening and apologizing. Complaints and concerns are priceless information. They help you know how to improve your business. They are a valuable asset. And what do you do when someone gives you something of value? You thank them, of course! So thank them for their feedback.

4. Ask what they want

Here is where most companies fail when handling complaints. They automatically respond with a generic offer of compensation (or they offer nothing). They might take 10% of the bill. Or they offer the customer a 50% discount on their next visit. Or maybe they just give them their entire meal for free.

The problem is if you don’t know what they want, you can’t give it to them. And responding with a stock offer tells them you don’t care enough to meet their needs. It might even offend them. Not everyone who complains is looking for a freebie.

Ask them how you can “make it right” for them. Then (unless they’re completely unreasonable) do a little more.

5. Fix the problem and follow up

If you are able to reach out to your customer, after you have fixed the problem, do it. Let them know you have fixed the problem. Tell them how much you appreciate their help. This puts you miles ahead of your competitors. It builds tremendous credibility for you. It shows them you listen, you act and you care.

Complaints don’t have be a stain on your day. They can (and should) be something you look forward to. Encourage them because they are gold for your business. Handle them well and you’ll have more loyal customers than ever before.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz