The Hard Stuff: Customer Complaints

So, how many of you have a customer complaints procedure in place?

I didn’t until about a week ago! This is hard for me to share as its quite personal to one of my businesses, but I feel I must share it to save you making a mistake that I did. Well, its not even a mistake, just an oversight. Anyway, here is your reminder to get a complaints procedure in place, although hopefully it is rarely referred too.

A complaints procedure has many benefits, not only does it give the customer more confidence in your business because you are giving them a guarantee, but it can also cover your back if things get sticky.

So, last week I had a complaint. It shook me, I cried. I got defensive. I panicked. What on earth do I do!? They’re threatening me with Trading Standards. I don’t have the money to refund them. This lasted for 10 minutes but then I had a customer call so had to put it to the back of my mind!

When it sunk it, the reality wasn’t so bad? Mainly because I was confident that I wasn’t at fault and I did my research with consumer rights, asked my questions and realised this customer was simply threatening me for a refund. This complaint is not dealt with yet, but it got me to shake a leg and put a procedure in place, so I know how to deal with it.

I always had an idea of how to deal with this kind of thing from previous experience working in retail but now I had to write it down and think about everything in greater detail.

What to include in a complaints procedure? Here is what I have learned.

Well, it needs to work for the customer and for you. Providing a clear policy for refunds, returns and exchanges instils confidence in you, your business and your products. It shows that you have confidence in your product or service.

  1. Don’t hide your policy – make your policy visible on your website and if necessary send out a terms and conditions PDF when you send an estimate/invoice.
  2. Do not copy and paste! – It needs to be in your own words because these policies are not a one size fits all!
  3. Use English – speak in a language your customers understand, meaning, a customer shouldn’t need a solicitor to translate it for them. It needs to be easy.
  4. Don’t scare them – Don’t use words like ‘must’ or ‘you are required’ this will simply seem like you are threatening them.
  5. Outline what they can expect from you – Be clear about what you will do when dealing with their complaint. Do you offer exchange, store credit or refunds? What is your process.
  6. Set expectations for your customer – What do they need to do, what’s their side of the procedure? Make it as easy as possible for them.
  7. Educate your staff – make sure all your staff are up to date with the returns policy.
  8. Be prepared to eat the cost of your mistakes – if you make a mistake, admit it and deal with it. We are human, we can make mistakes.

Also, watch out for those who are out to make a buck off you – you’ll know them when they raise their head – your complaints/returns policy should have clauses to look after you and the business here. For instance, if you sell a product then have a clause in place to repair/replace before refunding.

Another good idea is to research what people in your industry’s procedures are – they should be visible on their website!

If you need any help writing a complaints procedure or want someone to proofread, just approach me at one of our networking meetings and I’ll be more than happy to help.

You can also reach out to the incredible business community we have over on our FREE Facebook group! Click here to join!

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