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Turning customer complaints into customer service opportunities
Author: Jeremy Herring
October 1st 2013 -
Let's face it – customers are a fickle bunch. In more cases than not, a customer complaint can be traced back to a decision that the customer made previously and is now regretting but thinks that complaining about it will allow them to alter that decision without consequence. "I bought this item but now I don't like it” or "I'm not getting the results I was promised” are the mantra of the perpetually dissatisfied consumer segment. That's not to cast all consumers into that category but let's face it… we don't have to deal with the satisfied customers!

So let's take a moment to consider what is the best response we can offer those customers who will not be placated. If you're of the mindset that the customer is always right then there's really no debate… you simply acquiesce to the customer's demands and try to ‘close the loop' from a procedural standpoint to prevent the offending action from ever being allowed to occur again. Of course this is a little like the tail wagging the dog in that the influence of the least desirable customers become the driving force which determines the course of the entire organization. There is no success to be found following that course.

The other end of the spectrum is stubborn refusal to take any action in response to even a legitimate customer grievance but this approach backfires by driving away customers en masse. The only thing worse than bad business reputation is a spiteful reputation. Even if the customer is entirely in the wrong and unreasonable, the art of customer service is the art of diplomacy – finding common ground in which each party is willing to give up a little in order to meet in the middle. Come to think of it, there's probably a good lesson for our leaders in Washington D.C. in that statement!

So if we're agreed that common ground is where our best customer service opportunities reside, how do we put guidelines into place which can act as backstops against over-compensating the dissatisfied customer? That's why we have client relationship management software! Your salon management software should be more than simply a way to turn on beds and track visits – it should provide a framework for employees to document their customer interactions as well as offer enough latitude for employees to exercise some discretion in addressing concerns. There's a good amount of employee training that accompanies this requirement but all of the customer service skills in the world are useless if the software solution currently in place prohibits any action outside of what's been pre-approved.

I've always taken the approach that a well-trained and ambitious employee is going to make the most of an opportunity to turn that disgruntled customer into a delighted customer, but they can only do so if given the proper guidance and latitude. This initiative is then well-documented within the software and if there is any consequence which needs to be addressed then the employee can be held accountable for the decisions that were made. It is at this point that owners and managers must exercise the leadership skill of understanding what the employee did and empathizing with the employee's dilemma when the customer was in their face. If the action taken was inappropriate, gently correct the employee in order that they can do better next time.
For tip on how to equip employees, check out the Helios Blog.

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