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.
- 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.
- Do not copy and paste! – It needs to be in your own words because these policies are not a one size fits all!
- 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.
- Don’t scare them – Don’t use words like ‘must’ or ‘you are required’ this will simply seem like you are threatening them.
- 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.
- 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.
- Educate your staff – make sure all your staff are up to date with the returns policy.
- 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.
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