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All customer complaints are opportunities, but they aren't all the same. Depending on the type of complaint, and who it's coming from, your response may need to change. I'm going to give you a simple system that you can use for three different types of customer complaints; green, yellow, and red. This is not designed to replace your company's system for handling complaints, but instead, be a helpful resource. Green complaints come from happy customers. They like working with you, but they're giving you an idea or suggestion.
Yellow complaints are from people who are upset or unhappy about their experience with your company. The majority of the complaints that you receive are going to be in the yellow category. Red complaints are from people who are downright hostile, angry or threatening. Each type of customer complaint should be resolved differently and I'm going to give you some suggestions about ways that you can handle each of them. Let's start with the green complaint. When you get an idea or suggestion from a friendly customer, I recommend your first reaction should be gratitude.
You want to genuinely express appreciation, be sure to note the idea, and forward it on to the proper person. Then communicate to the customer that it's a great idea and you're passing it on to the appropriate person to take action. I also encourage you to look for a way to reward that customer. Hopefully, there's a policy in place to give people a perk, or reward, for sharing these great ideas, if not, you might suggest one. Now, let's talk about the yellow category where the majority of the complaints are going to be.
This is a customer who is unhappy. I suggest that first, you empathize with them. This is more than saying I understand. Listen and imagine yourself in their situation, genuinely try to understand. Thank them for bringing this to your attention and make a note of their suggestion. If appropriate, tell them that you'll pass along their feedback to make a change if possible. Then try to make it right and also give a little bit more.
Suppose there was a mistake on an invoice. You make it right by correcting the billing error. Then you give a little bit more, find a perk or a benefit to give them to thank them for bringing it to your attention, and as a friendly gesture. Your company can discuss appropriate ways to give a little bit more when it comes to yellow complaints. Now the red complaints come from people who are threatening, hostile, and angry. Perhaps they threatened to tell others bad things about your company or to sue.
When you receive a red complaint, be calm and allow them to vent their anger to you. It's possible that what they're saying is true, but it's also possible that they're not being truthful or rational. In either case, be calm and then restate to them what they said. Also, try to speak as little as possible and let the other person talk. Not only will that help defuse the situation, but it will also keep you from possibly saying something incorrect, or legally damaging to the business.
Then thank them for bringing it to your attention and be sure to document the conversation. If you're not authorized to resolve the situation then hand it off to someone who is able to make a decision. If you do have the authority to make a decision then try to respond in terms of if then. Ask, if I take care of it this way, then will you feel like we've dealt with you fairly? Getting their agreement will also help defuse the situation.
The good news is that the majority of the customer complaints that you handle won't be in the red category, but a little bit of preparation will help you feel calm and ready to deal with them when they do arise. Remember, whether the complaints are green, yellow or red, all customer complaints are opportunities. View them as such and you'll find more opportunities every day to increase your customer savvy.
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