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Solve Customer Complaints with One Question

Last week, we talked about the importance of customer service. Today, we'll discuss what happens when — not if — you or your company make a mistake, and something goes wrong?

Even in a socially distanced world, when you're out you can overhear lots of phone conversations — unintentionally of course. Recently while having lunch with my mentor, I heard a gentleman calling the home office about an unhappy customer. Something had gone wrong with the product or delivery, causing the customer to lose what sounded like 24 hours of production time. Admittedly, I'm not in manufacturing, but that sounds like a big deal to me.

I was only hearing one side of the conversation, but his concern was clear: how to get out of this with minimal harm. "Can we draft a letter or something that shares the responsibility with them for this?" He asked. From what I could tell, he was trying to blame the customer or at least partially blame them for what happened.

When you or your company screws up — and it will happen at some point, it's important to act quickly and decisively. In my experience, an apology followed by a little-used question usually leads to a solution.

I'm sorry, what can I do to make this right for you?

It's simple, and it avoids having to call a committee together to discuss the problem. Many times, customers just want to vent their anger about a situation. They have legitimate anger, and they just want you to listen. Other times, they have something specific in mind that they want to make right. Too often, like this gentleman at the restaurant, we get a complaint, and the hand wringing starts. We call the boss and experience panic and fear. "What are we going to do? What are we going to do?"

Knowing what you will or will not do starts by asking the customer, "What can we do to make this right?"

Most of the time, the customer's request is more than reasonable. It's generally less than what you were willing to do.

We all screw up. When you do, apologize, and ask what you can do to make it right.

Jeff Schmidt is the SVP of Professional Development. You can reach him at Jeff.Schmidt@RAB.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Source: Jeff Schmidt, RAB