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Here are  6 practical tactical tips.

1. Ask people to complain to you first.

  • This gives you the chance to fix their problem, before they blast their frustrations onto the web. This isn’t hard. We use websites, blogs, Facebook and Twitter as channels to give customers access to us. In our experience they are the easiest to use.

2. Apologise, if you are wrong.

  • People accept that everyone makes mistakes. We have found your trust factor goes up, not down. There are three criticalcrisiscomponents to an apology:
    • Say sorry, and mean it
    • Commit to investigating the complaint and giving feedback on what happened
    • Make sure it doesn’t happen again (this may take a retraining exercise for staff).

3. Don’t qualify the apology.

  • A special note on apologies: there is a tendency with some companies to blame the consumer. “We apologise for any inconvenience; however, we have found that with most complaints the consumer didn’t……”. That is not read as an apology.
  • If you need to send out an alert for common customer errors, locate that in a different blog/communique from an apology.

4. Define expectations, clearly.

  • Make sure you and your customers have the same expectations. People accept there are rules: delivery times, return policies, opening hours, conditions of warranty, keeping receipts, etc.

5. Use the phone.

  • If the complaint looks a little complex, or the complainant vexatious, take it offline and speak to the person. Once fixed, you can ask the complainant to acknowledge what you have done in the same forum as they complained so that other ‘followers’ can see it.

6. Be prepared to take a stand.

  • This is a last resort. There are serial complainants, and you are not going to stop them. Sometimes you can simply walk away; sometimes you have to pay them out; sometimes it takes a threat by you of legal action.

Author Peter Wilkinson

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