Thursday, May 12, 2016

Digging Yourself Out of a Ditch - 6 Steps to De

Graphic by Sira Anamwong via

 Digging Yourself Out of a Ditch – 6 steps to De-escalate Customer Complaints & Resolve Problems

In business, especially small business, the customer’s experience is the most important thing for companies to manage and maintain.  But what happens when that experience is a negative one?  How can a company learn from these customer experiences?  And how can companies retain customers after a negative experience.  Here are 6 simple steps to handling complaints and resolving issues with a customer’s experience. 

Photo by Stuart Miles via

1        1.  Listen – The most important thing to do when dealing with a negative customer experience is   to LISTEN.  Let the customer talk.  Do not rush into resolution mode immediately upon hearing there is an issue, which can seem dismissive and condescending.  Really take the time to hear what the customer’s issues are and take notes if necessary.


          2.  Acknowledge the problem –  After listening to the customer’s account of the issue, ACKNOWLEDGE the problem.  This lets the customer know that you value their business and were ACTIVELY LISTENING to them.  At this point, apologizing to the customer for the problem and promising to find an equitable solution goes a long way to de-escalating the complaint and turning the customer’s mind away from the initial complaint and toward finding resolution.

3.              3.  Express empathy – Whatever happened, it impacted your customer’s experience to the point that the entire transaction has broken down.  Expressing empathy by reflecting back your customer’s issue and concern to them, shows that not only are you actively listening, but that you care.

4.              4.  Ask for customer’s input -  Now, I know this seems fraught with danger, but most customers have a very straightforward resolution that they are looking for.  By engaging them in the resolution process, the customer will feel respected and valued, but it also will give you a chance to hear their expectations prior to offering a resolution.

5.              5.  Offer a resolution –  At this point, you should have a fairly good idea of what your customer is expecting as far as resolution.  Now, that expectation may be easily met (replacement, refund, discount), and if it is, resolution can be straight forward and simple to accomplish.  However, this is also the stage when negotiation happens.  Balancing the needs of the customer with the needs of the company.  You don’t want to give away the cow with the milk, so to speak.  But you do want to find a resolution that retains the customer and is good for the company’s bottom line. 

Graphic by Stuart Miles via

             6.  Express Gratitude -  Thank the customer for bringing the issue to your attention.  Thank them for the opportunity to resolve the issue for them.  A little gratitude goes a long way.

Customer Service is the back bone of any small business and is a way to differentiate yourself and your company from others.  Remember that all customer experiences are learning experiences.  Focus on ways that your company can improve the customer experience, rather than focusing on the things that went wrong. 

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