Monthly Archives: February 2011

Customer Complaint Resolution – all about attitude

After years of working in hospitality and seeing good and bad problem resolution skills (and practicing both myself), I’ve learned some best practices in dealing with angry customers.  I have to say the most important first step is to face customer complaints positively.

Think of complaints as a way to improve your business. Many companies spend thousands of dollars on research, focus groups, and studies on their business.  If you simply spend time understanding what your own customers are loving and disliking about your business, you can save money and boost your success.  I remember working with Restaurant Managers who, when a waiter told them they had an unhappy customer, would get angry themselves, immediately.  Before long, wait staff were afraid to go to these Managers with an issue.   Many people don’t complain – at least not to the company… but they do tell family and acquaintances, and in the world of Twitter and Facebook, followers and friends.  Businesses such as restaurants are extremely lucky to have a captive customer for a period of about an hour, during which they can resolve any issues if they just react quickly and positively.  So when an employee comes to you with a complaint from a customer, thank them for bringing it to them and then work with them to resolve it.

If you have an intense desire to be right, customer service may not be for you.  It is essential that you believe the customer.  This may be difficult, because although we’ve all heard the adage that “the customer is always right”, we know it’s not always true.  However, you are dealing with the customer’s perception of what has happened, and that is absolutely true and important.  No matter whether you know that the customer actually caused some of the problem themselves (by ordering the wrong thing / not following instructions, etc), or if you know that they are exaggerating or simply being untruthful, it’s not important to prove them wrong.  In fact, that will only make matters worse.  Go into any customer complaint with the belief that the customer’s perception is reality, and find out what will make them happy.

Angry customers don’t want an explanation. I have seen letters written to customers explaining why things had happened the way they had, or even blaming others for what had happened to the customer.  None of these excuses make any difference to the customer.  To them, you have ruined their experience, they have had the respect and courage to tell you about it, and they simply want you to fix it.  Swallow your pride, apologize for what went wrong, and do what it takes to make the customer happy.

Act quickly and proactively! The longer you wait to deal with a customer complaint, the less likely they will ever deal with your business again, and the more likely they will tell more people.  In fact, in some businesses, you may recognize a problem before it is a major one.  This is often the case in restaurants, hotels, and even retail delivery operations.  Timing or slow service is a very common complaint – from waiting for a table or food in a restaurant, to not having rooms available and ready upon check-in, to delivering furniture or retail items within the timeline promised.  These are some complaints that you can get ahead of if you are somewhat proactive.  Watch the timing of promised items in your company.  If you are nearing a deadline, call or speak with the customer before they realize it.  Often times, they simply appreciate the fact that you haven’t forgotten them, and that you cared enough to follow up, and it will not bother them when the timeline is long.  However, many managers make the mistake of ignoring these sorts of issues, and hoping that the customer will not notice or not complain.  I would guess that 9 times out of 10 the customer does notice, and that although not all of them complain, all of those tell at least 2 people.

At the end of the day, if you watch for issues proactively, approach them in a positive way and always think of the customer as telling the truth, you are well on your way to being able to turn customer complaints around.

What’s the worst customer service you’ve ever had?  How many people did you tell about it?  Have you ever dealt with a company that resolved a problem and wowed you with their reaction?  Tell me about it in the comments below or tweet to me.


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Is your Receptionist turning away customers?

Is your receptionist helping or hindering your business? Lately, I have run into several that were doing a great job turning away my business.

The first situation was with my veterinarian. My family and I have been loyal clients, bringing our pets to this particular vet for 30 years. Recently, I moved to a town which is a half hour away.  Regardless of this, I continued to drive to the same vet for more than a year. Until my last appointment a few months ago.  I ran into unexpected traffic on the highway on a Saturday morning, arrived 10 minutes late, rushed in the door and immediately apologized. The receptionist’s reply? “You’ll have to reschedule.”  No questions asked, no apology for not being able to fit me in, ultimately no attempt to help the business. After I told her where I live and that I wasn’t sure when I could get there again, she shrugged. When I said I would find another vet, she ignored me and answered the phone. So I did just that. I will not go back to that vet, and neither will my family.

More recently, I needed to have my hair done. I called my salon, where I’ve been a client for 10 years and where I’ve referred countless friends. When I asked for an appointment with my regular stylist, I was told she was booked for the date I requested, so I asked about a 2nd stylist, then a 3rd. All were either off or too busy to see me that day. I then said “I guess I’ll try to find another salon.” The receptionist said “okay”, and hung up.  Now, a woman will make a lot of allowances for a great hairsylist, but this was the 3rd time this type of thing had happened with this salon. 

So I did find another salon. I got a great cut and colour, and I’ll likely go back there.

My thoughts… These receptionists were apathetic rather than empathetic, and they displayed no problem solving skills. Training for this position likely consisted of an explanation of how to use the phone and computer, and how to bill people. The softer skills are what is missing. They should be taught to find solutions if they can’t satisfy the initial request a customer has. In my salon example, I was obviously open to seeing other stylists, and if the receptionist had offered that or another nearby date, I would have likely taken her up on the offer.

Ultimately, both of these receptionists likely think that their job is to answer the phones and book appointments.  They should be taught that their role is to build loyal customers and ensure that your business is as profitable as possible.  From a “hearts and minds” point of view, these people were taught the rational side of their job, the basic tasks. But they were not taught to engage the hearts of their customers. Teach your receptionists that their role is critical to your business. They are the ones who actually come into contact with every single customer that deals with you, and their role is to do what they can to build positive relationships and your business.


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My Favourite iPad Apps

I am a self-professed iPad addict.  It’s true.  I can’t get enough of it.  I rarely take out my laptop while at home now – everything I need is on the iPad.  I’ve tried various apps in the 6 months since I’ve had the iPad, and thought I’d share my favourites.

Pictureka! $1.99 – This is the most addictive game I’ve ever played.  It’s different every time, people of all ages love it.  Basically, it shows you a jumble of pictures and tells you to find certain things (like animals, things with hair, things in space, etc).  The number of things you have to find gets greater and more difficult as you proceed.  Sounds extremely simplistic, and it is, but the addictive fun factor is amazing!

Simon Says game.  Free!  This one brings back memories of playing with the little handheld Simon Says as a kid.  It’s just like the original – four coloured buttons that light up and play a tone when pressed.  You have to imitate what the machine does to keep going up in levels.  Again, simple but fun.

Vevo HD.  Free!  Great for watching the latest music videos, and you can create your own playlist of your favourites.

Sirius satellite radio.  Free for subscribers!  I’m a Sirius subscriber and now I can listen to Sirius anywhere!  I love this one.  It’s free as long as you already have a paid subscription to Sirius.

Smule’s Glee app.  Hours of fun.  The app is free, but you have to pay for the songs from Glee.  You can also use it with tunes from your iTunes library, though.  It’s like Karaoke on steroids.  The app harmonizes your voice with the Glee singers.  I’ll admit, mine never sounds in harmony, but it’s fun just the same!

Star Walk. $2.99.  When Steve Jobs referenced the iPad being magic, this is one of the things he was talking about.  This app allows you to hold the iPad up to the sky, and it points out what constellations you are seeing.  You can select a constellation and it will direct you to it.  Truly magical.

GoodReader.  $2.99 well-spent!  This is my favourite app for reading PDFs.  It allows you to highlight, add notes, replace words, and more.

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Posted by on February 2, 2011 in Technology


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