Customer complaints: How to account manage from problems to increased spend

In every business, there are going to be times when some customers aren’t happy with the service. No matter how hard your team work to deliver great service, there will be times when they fail to meet expectations.

As an account manager, or customer service agent, it’s how you handle this that can make a huge outcome on the experience that customer has. It is possible to turn a complaint around into an opportunity. Whether or not a customer has turned to social media to vent their annoyance, an unhappy customer is going to tell others about the service they’ve received.

So if you can turn this situation around, an unhappy customer is going to focus on that experience, instead of saying how awful your company was to deal with. Turning a negative into a positive. Not only could they spend more with you going forward, as a result of the positive experience, but they are going to talk positively about your brand.

Here is how you can turn a complaint into an opportunity to increase revenue.

Turning around a customer complaint

#1: Make sure your customer feels heard

An unhappy customer needs to be heard.

But they also need to feel heard. You need to acknowledge them and the bad experience they’ve had. Never dismiss or ignore a customer complaint. Not only could a complaint escalate, you risk reputational damage on social media and review websites.

Listen to an unhappy customer. Say sorry. Recognise that something has gone wrong. Whenever possible, aim to resolve the problem straight away. If they’ve called a customer service number, aim to resolve on the first call. If the complaint is via email or social media, aim to resolve in your first response.

When a complaint is more complicated and needs investigating, keep them informed about potential timescales. Be realistic about when and how soon this complaint will be resolved. Make sure they’ve had the chance to say how and why they’re unhappy with the service and, whenever appropriate, always apologise.

#2: Delight your unhappy customer

Some customer complaints are easier to fix than others.

Let’s say that a moving company drops and breaks a valuable antique. Or a manufacturing supplier misses a crucial deadline. Or a cable company drops the ball during the Super Bowl. Those failures can’t be undone. But you can always find ways to turn a situation around, or make it up to an unhappy customer.

Look for ways to create a positive resolution. Whether that means a refund, compensation, or providing service to the value of the goods/services that were delivered poorly. There are always opportunities to make an unhappy customer feel like your most valued customer.

#3: Protect and mitigate negative online mentions

One thing that companies always need to be wary of is negative comments on social media and reviews. Consumer brands, in particular, struggle with this. People are more willing than ever to voice a negative opinion online, before they’ve even spoken with anyone at a company.

Whether or not your customer service team is integrated with social media management, you need to constantly watch out for and respond to negative comments. Set up automated sentiment analysis within social media management tools. It is also worth keeping an eye on review websites and Google for reviews.

If a negative review or comment appears online, the worst thing you can do is ignore it. The second worst thing is to respond defensively. Respond. Quickly (within minutes if possible). Acknowledge and apologise, and whenever possible, ask for them to email/private message more details. Jumping on an instant demo is another way to turn this around. Aim to resolve in a timely fashion and make sure the unhappy customer feels listened to.

#4: Use this as a learning experience

No one complains without good reason.

Every complaint, therefore, is a learning experience.

Once a complaint is resolved, walk backwards through the service/product delivered and the process. Look at what went wrong. Was this a one-off, or are there systematic failures in the process? What can you do differently to avoid this happening again?

#5: Build on positive experiences

Once a complaint is resolved and you are sure the customer is happy again, use this to see how you can provide other products/services to the customer. Is this an up-sell, cross-sell or referral opportunity? Can it be used to show how your team provided great service, and potentially go on social media to drive new sales?

Whenever possible, identify opportunities to increase revenue and spread the word online about your brand. A negative can always be turned around.

Always be honest and apologise with customers when something has gone wrong. Look into what went wrong. Resolve a complaint as quickly as possible. Mitigate the impact of online comments and negative reviews by acknowledging and responding quickly. Look after your customers and if you can resolve an issue effectively, they’re going to remain customers and tell others about how great your team was resolving this complaint.