Handling Customer Complaints

How to handle customer complaints is a commonly asked question as while hospitality businesses always strive to offer the best customer service and products, unfortunately this is not always the case. How a complaint is handled can benefit your business and reputation, if handled correctly, however if handled incorrectly it can have serious ramifications. This blog post aims to give you a better understanding of the processes you can put in place to ensure that all complaints are handled in the correct manner.

Why do customers complain?

The first step of dealing with customer complaints is to understand why customers complain. A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction at the quality of a product or the standards of service they received; this generally happens when the customer expectations are not met.

The most common complaints with the hospitality industry are:

· Poor customer service

· Low quality products or services

· Unfriendly employees

· Long wait times

· Noise levels

I think we can all say we have dealt with many of the above complaints at some point in our careers. So now we know why customers complain, let us look at how to handle them.

Top Tips for Handling a Complaint

Every business will have a different procedure for handling complaints but here are a few tips that will help you ensure that the procedures you have in place have positive results on a regular basis, as much as anyone would like to ensure that all customers who complain go away happy, we all know this is not always the case.

1. Listen: most customers who complain just want to feel like they are being heard, actively listening, and not interrupting will not only make the customers feel that you value their comments, but it will also allow you to get all the information you need to deal with the issue. Do ask questions if you feel you need further information. Repeat the problem back to the customer to ensure you understand their complaint.

2. Stay calm and be polite: when a customer is making a complaint, emotions will generally be running high, as they are unhappy (for whatever reason) staying calm will help stop the complaint from escalating, never forget that other customers may be listening, and your handling could affect their opinions of the business and you can remain confident that you are not showing the business in a bad light. Staying calm can be exceedingly difficult while dealing with a complaint however staying polite will help.

3. Use body language: Mehrabian’s theory states that only 7% of what you are trying to communicate is done through the spoken word, 38% is communicated through

the tone of your voice and the other 55% is communicated through body language. Meaning that your body language is the most important weapon in your arsenal when dealing with complaints. If a customer is sat down crouch down next to them, putting yourself on their level rather than towering over them, ensure you do not have your arms folded, no smiling or using cheerful expressions. You want your body language to be open and approachable.

4. Do not play the blame game: The first thing you need to focus on is making the customer happy, you will have time to investigate what went wrong later, the customer does not want to know why something went wrong, they want the problem to be fixed.

5. Take ownership: Do not be afraid to admit your errors, showing humility and a willingness to learn can have a positive effect

6. Do everything you can to fulfil their expectations: Try to be accommodating of their expectations. Everyone know the saying “the customer is always right”, however more businesses should focus on “going the extra mile” to ensure customer satisfaction.

7. Ask them what they would like you to do: Be careful with this one as it could backfire, however if they are being particularly difficult it can help to put the onus on them to resolve the problem by asking then what they would like you to do.

8. Train your employees: This is probably the most crucial thing you can do, as while not everyone is happy dealing with complaints training can help employees understand the best course of action. Set out guidelines for what to do when a customer complains letting them know exactly what they can do to handle a complaint i.e., offer free drinks. Make sure they know they can involve a supervisor or manager if they necessary

9. Learn from your mistakes: It is also important to keep track of the complaints you have received. This way you can keep track of any problems and put in place procedures and training to rectify them.

10. Always Respond: make sure your respond to all negative reviews and complaints that come in by email or other formats as soon as possible, this shows your commitment to the customer and resolving the issue. it is always best to respond even if you are just asking for further information so you can investigate the issue. The last thing you want is for customers to feel ignored as this can make the complaint worse

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