Following another social media scandal, I learnt of a disappointed customer to a renowned dairy company in Harare. Openly infuriated, the customer could be heard singing his curses while pouring some of the products on to his ablution facility in protest. In all this, I learnt that he purchased fresh milk which he says had gone bad and upon communicating the issue with the company, lawyers were involved and the customer found himself on the losing side. While I did not dig much into the issue, the sight of this disappointed customer reminded me of the old saying that “a customer is King” which suggests that customers need or perhaps deserve some special treatment from businesses. In this article, I thus take to the task in suggesting a few ways which can be used in handling customer complaints. These can be useful in guarding against customer fight back which ends up tarnishing the otherwise good reputation of a company.

Show Appreciation To Your Customer

Faced with a discontented customer, as a small business owner you need to show your appreciation for them having brought a complaint right to your doorstep. I mean they could`ve tainted you unreliable and take their business to your competitor. So, depending on your entrepreneur personality, you should by now know that a complaint can present the next breakthrough for your business. This is because customer complaints can highlight glitches that need fixing in either your value proposition, distribution channel or marketing strategy. Besides, in these trying times, consumers are quite emotional when they`re making purchases and there is no room for errors either on their part or your business. Hence if your business has found itself on the offensive side, instead of being defensive, begin by showing your appreciation to the customer for communicating the problem with you. This will work wonders and you should know that killing your customers with kindness is always the best strategy in such situations.

 Be Sure To Apologise

For some reason, many business owners rarely see the need to be apologising to their customers if they fail to deliver on their business promise. It could be understandable seeing to it that as a nation we have been accustomed to the blame game. No one wants to own up when things go haywire, instead, we resort to scapegoating. Therefore, as a small business owner, it is encouraged that if by any chance a customer knocks on your door bringing a complaint to you, make sure that the first thing you do is apologising to them. Possibly you could not be the one to blame for the respective fault but the fact that a customer has come back to you suggests your responsibility in the issue. Hence the least that you can do is taking and owning up to that responsibility. Your apology should express gratitude to the chance of working things out together with your customer.

Identify and Acknowledge The Problem

Referring to the recent conflict between a dairy company and its disappointed client, it can be observed that the company did not acknowledge the problem faced by the client. At least from the client`s perspective. Now, as an entrepreneur, you should always be prepared to acknowledge any problems which may be encountered by your customers in using your product/service. Where a customer brings in a complaint to you, the worst thing you can do is pretending as if the problem does not exist risking making a fool out of your customer. One way of treating problems as none existent can be through making excuses to cover up for an obvious pitfall. This does not work. Instead, what you want to do with a customer complaint is to handle it in the best way that you would want the situation to be dealt with if the roles were to be reversed. The simple and most effective way is to acknowledge the problem and apologize for the issue. After all, acknowledging a problem is halfway to solving it.

Be Quick To Get The Facts Right

Getting near accurate facts will save you a whole load of efforts and energy to be expended. In this, you should know that it is better to spend 90% of your time in understanding the problem and the remaining 10% in crafting a solution. So, as a small business owner, you should be aware of the fact that you can`t help a dissatisfied customer without grasping the full information about the situation from their perspective. Having your customer`s perspective on the matter coupled with your understanding of how your business operates will leave you in a better position to draft a way forward.

Always Offer A Solution

Where a customer is unsatisfied by his/her purchase, it is possible that a proper business procedure was not followed. A solution, therefore, will border around identifying where the problem stemmed from and ensuring that you and your customer understand the situation. Since a customer would have brought the issue to your attention you should not let him/her go without offering them a workable solution to their problem. This comes from a noble perspective that when a customer comes back to you with a complaint they sincerely need your help. In such a situation, you wouldn`t want to disappoint them by not suggesting a workable solution. However, where you can’t offer any help make it known to them that you will do all you can to make sure that the issue is resolved in the best possible way and be honest about it.

Lastly, you should not suggest solutions as a way of getting the customer off your back. If you so choose to do so, they will come back again and this time more furious and the situation will be more complicated than it originally was. So, Please treat your customers with the respect they deserve.