Customer Service Tips: How to Deal with Serial Complainers

What is Serial Complaining?

Serial complainers are not to be confused with people that complain more than once because they have suffered sub-standard service on more than one occasion. (If you are receiving multiple complaints from the same customer, be sure to deal with the issues that have been raised before labelling them a serial complainer.) What we are talking about here are serial compulsive complainers who have unrealistic expectations or complain about issues which are not really relevant to the service your business is providing. Be careful not to dismiss complaints too readily or the same complaint from two different customers, for example if a number of customers are complaining that there are too many mosquitoes near the swimming pool, do not automatically dismiss this as outside your control. They won’t come back either way.

Why are they Complaining?

That’s a good question, which I guess we’ll never be able to truly answer. We could speculate that it’s because they want something for free, they are perfectionists or they are seeking attention. Don’t get engrossed in their reasons for complaining just focus on this as a small problem to be dealt with and part of the normal expected issues associated with running a business. The key thing to remember is:small problem, after all an unjustified complaint is surely less serious than a legitimate one so there’s no point getting worked up about it.

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Respond Immediately

Don’t delay replying to a complaint because you feel it is unreasonable. It will turn into ranting on internet blogs and bad mouthing your organisation. Ignoring a complaint is justification for a real complaint and you can bet that’s exactly what they’ll do. Don’t let a groundless complaint escalate into a serious one.

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Stop Offering Rewards for Complaining

Deal with the complaints pragmatically, if the complaint is unreasonable and does not justify compensation then don’t offer any. If they are just after free stuff they will soon stop complaining when the steady stream of rewards dries up. Ensure that your response is pragmatic but charged with emotional language and heartfelt feelings, you can give away as many of those as you like for nothing.

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Exiting

You should only consider exiting a customer if they are not profitable, however with particularly difficult customers you may find that the time and costs associated with doing business with them outweighs the profit you can hope to make. To exit a customer diplomatically stop sending them marketing material, slowly increase the price if you can, recommend a competitor, sorry, really good friend who is also in your line of work.

Below are some real life hilarious complaints…

“I compared the size of our one-bedroom apartment to our friends’ three-bedroom apartment and ours was significantly smaller.”

“My fiancé and I booked a twin-bedded room but we were placed in a double-bedded room. We now hold you responsible for the fact that I find myself pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”

“It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England it only took the Americans three hours to get home.”

“A student contacted a food producer to complain that he’d almost choked on a fish hook. A full investigation followed involving full traceability reports. It was established that the dish used net caught fish and no hooks had been used in the production process. The student apologised for trying to falsely obtain compensation.”

“On receiving a call advising that her contact lens order was early and could be collected, the customer complained to the head office, suggestion that the ‘overzealous’ ordering system was akin to high pressure selling.”

“A customer contacted their electricity provider complaining a power failure resulting from high winds caused them to miss a “vital episode of Coronation Street.”

“ A utilities company received a call from a customer complaining about the exceptionally high quality of customer service. It was suggested that less money was spent on staff training and the savings put to reducing customer bills.”

Sources: Telegraph and My Customer

 

Customer Service Tips: How To Handle A Complaint

Receiving customer complaints is a part of being in business, although hopefully not too frequently. Everyone makes mistakes, customers are often unreasonable and sometimes your suppliers and distributors let you down.

Dealing with a customer complaint correctly is the pinnacle of good customer service, however I have noticed that customer service in Britain is a little bit… erm…lax. Not that our continental neighbours fare much better in this department. I think it’s likely that the reason why customer complaints are so badly handled is that few  people have actually learned or been trained how to deal with them in the first place.

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So what to do?

A few hours poking around on the internet and a couple of training courses later and this is what I have found.

A complaint is a fantastic opportunity to show how good your service is, handle a complaint professionally and you will walk away with a very happy and loyal client.

When you received a customer complaint follow these basics steps:

  1. Remain calm, do not be defensive, apologise for the inconvenience that the other person has suffered
  2. Listen to the complaint and reassure the person that you understand the problem, do not ask them to put it in writing, the customer has chosen the medium through which they wish to voice their concerns. Respect that.
  3. Ask if there is anything that you could do to rectify the situation, if they haven’t already explained
  4. Offer the client a solution and thank them for informing you of the problem

DO NOT:

  • Argue with them or disagree
  • Get defensive
  • Make excuses
  • Blame them for the mistake or highlight any mistakes they have made in the process

Remember the customer does not work for your organisation, they have only one obligation in the transaction, to pay, and everything else is your responsibility.

Why Outsourcing?

What is outsourcing?

Outsourcing is the process of contracting out a particular business process as opposed to performing it internally. I know of no organisation that is large enough and sophisticated enough to perform every part of their business function in house.

The question then becomes, “Which business functions should I outsource?”  Namely, any function which can be delivered more efficiently and cheaply by an external provider than it can by your own staff. Some functions are easy to outsource, very few businesses produce their own electricity because the processes involved are complex and require large capital investments, there is also a cost effective and convenient alternative, outsourcing.

outsourcing

Where should I outsource?

When it comes to more complicated functions and client facing roles, the process of outsourcing also becomes more complicated. A small team of say 10 people is likely to have a limited number of key specialist skills and everything outside these key areas should be outsourced, but doing it properly takes care and attention.

The general level of customer service in the US is hard to beat and  foreigners notice that. Culturally the US has a long and deep set tradition of good customer care. Contrast that with a country such as India, the general level of customer service is poor, even for local people going about their day to day business, everywhere from restaurants to hotels to local bank branches. Outsourcing a customer service function from an American company, with American clients, to a call centre in India is a classic example of a bad outsourcing decision.

Belmore Virtual works as a UK business consultancy company and we specialise in helping small businesses make good outsourcing decisions. When you are looking to outsource, you should consider whether you can find somebody outside your organisation which can perform any of these functions better and cheaper than your own team. It is for this reason in fact, that on a couple of occasions we have recommended that British companies based in London, where overheads are very high, actually outsource some of their customer service to the US.

The key is to get a better understanding of the company and location you are looking to outsource to and find the experts which will deliver an outstanding result. Would you consider using an accounting firm in the Cayman Islands or outsourcing some engineering work to a German engineering firm?

If you’re still hell bent on outsourcing your customer service to the Far East because the US is too expensive, and you have done your research thoroughly, you’ll find out that in the Philippines there are dozens of customer contact centres offering very high levels of customer service. They also speak a very high level of American English and often Spanish and have a culture of good honest customer care.

When looking to outsource try following the below steps:

1. Identify the functions in your business which do not lie directly under you or your team’s area of expertise. There will be a lot, you can’t be good at everything.

2. Chase down better expertise elsewhere, don’t forget to look locally as well as internationally. Be fussy with who you outsource to and interview the prospects over the telephone before wasting too much time.

3. Once you have found your experts, ask them how to make it cost effective for your business. Get the right level of service to satisfy your needs without overspending. Have a clear understanding of the people you are dealing with and exactly what your expectations are.

4. Ensure that when you outsource any business function that the overall level of service delivered is higher as a result, not just cheaper.

Hope you found this helpful!