Entrepreneurs, customer success managers, and customer service professionals have a big question facing them – How to reduce customer complaints?
Receiving messages from your customers is really an amazing thing. However, the reason matters. Are you getting more complaints than compliments? Has your team succumbed to an endless list of customer complaints?
No matter how big your brand is, taking customer complaints is never easy for anyone. But If you want to survive in this fierce business world, running away from problems should never be an option. You must take responsibility, accept mistakes, and look for ways to proactively reduce customer complaints.
Right from using customer support software to track complaints to taking proactive customer feedback, we have compiled some important tips for you. In this blog, we will understand how to analyze customer complaints and explore expert tips for reducing them.
Ready to turn complaints into compliments? Let’s go!
What Are Customer Complaints?
A customer complaint refers to a formal communication of disappointment, problem, or negative feedback shared with a business. Complaints result due to the gaps between what a business promises to deliver and what the customers actually get.
Customer complaints can take many forms. They could arise due to delayed support, impolite employees, faulty product/service, internal processes, or improper communication. For example, customers can share their complaints when your product does not reach them on time or when they call your business but nobody responds. Here is an example of a customer lashing out at MLB.TV for poor service.
While complaints can help you see where exactly you need to improve upon, you must also investigate in order to avoid complaints in the future. The next section focuses on the same.
How to Analyze Customer Complaints?
To reduce customer complaints in the future, you must analyze the ones you already have. For proper complaint analysis, you need to ask yourself several questions:
- What is the exact problem mentioned in the complaint?
- Which department is responsible for this customer complaint?
- How many times have we received similar complaints?
- How urgently do we need to deal with this problem?
- How many times has the same customer reported this issue?
- What can we do to avoid similar complaints in the future?
- What can be done to ease the situation?
A thorough investigation can help your business track trends, understand common customer pain points, and devise the right strategies to reduce customer complaints in the future.
For example, if you see that many customers have complained that your website does not offer in-depth product information, you can communicate the same to your internal teams and fix the issue right away.
10 Tips to Reduce Customer Complaints
Now that we have a fair idea about the nature and causes of complaints, it’s time to get to the main section of this blog. Without further ado, let’s look at the 10 best tips to reduce customer complaints:
1. Set Clear Expectations from the Get-Go
Setting clear expectations from the start is one of the best tips for avoiding customer complaints.
To start a customer relationship off on the right foot, you need to clearly communicate aspects such as product quality, return policies, any hidden terms, and conditions, etc.
Rather than assuming that your communication is effective, ask questions so that a clear understanding is established from the get-go. “We hope you know about our operational timings? Do you have any further questions?” This is a great way to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
While the customers should be well aware of every aspect of your business, some aspects demand more clarity than others.
- Product/Service Quality: Set clear expectations about the quality of products or services your customers can expect from your brand. Do not boast of a feature that you do not even offer. More importantly, for low-priced products/services, communicate any serious limitations or drawbacks.
- Return & Refund Policies: Many customers complain that they cannot easily return their purchase items. Even if they return it, they are not eligible for a complete refund. You must create well-structured return and refund policies to avoid such complications and ensure a better shopping experience.
- Customer Service SLAs: So what happens when things go wrong? How long are customers expected to wait to get an email or phone response from your team? Communicate customer service SLAs and track how successfully your team lives up to service expectations.
2. Improve Your Customer Service Standards
When it comes to customer satisfaction, customer service departments have a huge role to play. Unlike decades ago, when price or quality were the only deciding factors, modern customers have a keen eye for how you treat them.
90% of US customers consider customer service as a factor in deciding whether or not to do business with a company.
Here are some tips to take your customer service to the next level:
- Offer Proactive Support: Proactively engaging with your customers is a great way to reduce customer service complaints. For instance, if your website will go under scheduled maintenance in the next week, inform customers about the exact time and date so that they can stay prepared. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon was quick to create a FAQ page on its website that proactively answered questions related to delayed delivery, prime membership, safety, etc.
- Be available on more channels: Different customers prefer different channels for contacting your customer service team. While some will write a long email and avoid human contact, others will prefer to have a direct one-to-one conversation on call. In addition to traditional channels, make sure your team is available on digital channels such as live chat, social media, help center, and more.
- Improve your response time: One of the most common customer complaints is about delayed responses. Customers call your team to get some information, and they are made to wait on hold for minutes. The same goes for email, when a response is received only after a couple of days. Therefore, to avoid distress and dissatisfaction, you must improve your response time
3. Track Customer Complaints Using Customer Support Software
A lot of customer complaints are, in fact, about previous complaints. “What is the status of my issue?”, “Why has my issue not been resolved yet?” Therefore, to reduce future complaints, you must be smart about handling or tracking your existing complaints.
Now, many small businesses use Gmail to track customer complaints. However, as your team grows and you have more customers, you will need cloud-based customer support software.
With the right customer support software, you can track the complete lifecycle of a complaint ticket. Right from the moment a complaint is registered to the time it is resolved and marked as closed, you have complete visibility.
To reduce customer complaints by using the helpdesk ticketing system, you need to convert every complaint into a ticket and assign it to people who are most capable of handling them. For instance, technical complaints must be assigned to agents who have the necessary technical expertise.
Real-time tracking of customer complaints and requests will allow you to have complete control over your support operations, team productivity, as well as performance.
4. Train Employees on Soft Skills
You must have heard a lot of customers say, “I did not have a great experience with company XYZ. The employees were impolite, uninterested, and just wanted to make a sale.” Yes, we all have encountered such horrific experiences at some point in time.
According to a study, 68% of customers believe that a polite and empathetic customer service representative is the key to a great customer experience.
When your customer-facing team is empathetic and professional, they build a better reputation for your brand. On the contrary, the lack of soft skills can leave a bad impression on customers. This is much more applicable if you have a restaurant business; it is essential to train your employees when recruiting for your restaurant job with some technical skills like how to take orders, how to talk with customers, handle food complaints, etc. In addition to technical training, train your employees on these soft skills:
- Empathy: Empathy is a must-have soft skill that reflects your ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Even if you don’t have a ready solution to a problem, showing empathy makes customers feel that their concerns matter. Moreover, empathy can make your brand look more human and help you win the trust of your audience.
- Patience: Frequent customer complaints can make anyone lose their patience and lead to further escalations. However, you need to realize that patience is a vital quality in the workplace that holds the power to reduce conflicts. Patient employees can better understand customer problems, avoid arguments, and enhance the quality of relationships.
- Openness to Criticism: Employees must learn to take criticism from both internal leaders and external customers. Train them to see the positive side of every situation and handle negative feedback without being too aggressive.
5. Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Broken promises are the leading cause of customer complaints. Remember the time when a business promised you next-day delivery, but your product never reached in time? Making false promises to customers will not only hamper your brand’s image but can also land you in legal trouble.
Brands make all sorts of promises – “We have the best pricing”, “Join today and get 50% discount”, “Free shipping on all orders”, etc. But how many are able to fulfill them? To avoid customer complaints, you should never over-promise and under-deliver.
So does this mean that you should not promise at all? Of course not. You can always make promises that you can deliver. The focus should be on creating value rather than attracting customers with unrealistic promises.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What promises are we making to our customers?
Make sure you know what exact promises you have made to customers. Revisit your SLAs, marketing emails, product catalogs, quotations, etc., and check whether you are in the position to fulfill them or not. Remove any vague promises and communicate the same to your team.
Which promises do our customers care about the most?
Are you making promises that your customers don’t even want? Spend some time figuring out what customers expect from your brand and what extra commitments they want you to make.
6. Create an Action Plan for Urgent Complaints
Let’s be honest some customer complaints are more urgent in nature than others. For example, a complaint about a compromised account is more serious than a complaint about one blog that does not open.
To reduce further complaints from customers, you need to assign different priorities to every customer issue. Depending on their urgency, complaints can be marked as “high-priority”, “normal priority”, or “low priority”.
Create a suitable action plan to ensure urgent issues are resolved first. Here are some points to keep in mind:
- Be quick to apologize: Before things turn ugly, you need to apologize for your mistakes sincerely. For example, DiGiorno Pizza had shared a tweet using a trending hashtag related to domestic violence. When customers did not find it in good taste, the popular pizza brand was quick to apologize for its mistake.
- Have a clear-cut escalation procedure: To reduce customer service complaints, your team members must know the right steps they need to take. Explain when to escalate customers’ complaints and have a specific person or team for technical, international, security, or billing-related escalations.
- Share updates on the progress of the issue: To minimize subsequent customer contacts, you need to update them about the progress of their issue. Communicate the steps your business is taking to fix the problem and share a realistic timeline.
7. Create a Knowledge Base & Community Forum
Encouraging self-service is one of the best strategies to reduce customer complaints. Think about this for a moment; a customer complains when he encounters a problem. What if the solution to the problem was readily available online, and there was no need to raise a complaint.
Invest your time and efforts in creating a dedicated knowledge base that is easy to search and holds answers to frequently asked questions. Similarly, create an online forum where customers can interact with each other and share their experiences, problems, or solutions.
How to best use your knowledge base to reduce complaints?
A majority of customers look for answers online before approaching your team. If you create an SEO-friendly help center, you can allow customers to find the right answers easily. For a delightful search experience, optimize your knowledge base for multiple devices such as mobile, tablet, PC, and laptop.
How can community forums help you avoid customer complaints?
A well-curated online community forum can help you drive customer engagement and build long-term trust with your audience. Before raising a complaint, customers can go through product release news, updates, expert suggestions, etc., and get their queries resolved by themselves.
8. Get to the Root Cause of Issues
So you successfully handled a customer complaint once. Great. But is that enough?
To reduce customer complaints and avoid similar problems in the future, you need to get to the root cause of an issue. Identify “complaint trends” and look for ways to find a permanent fix to problems.
When an old bucket leaks, you can fix the leak once or twice, but you need a permanent solution after some time. Similarly, you need to track the root cause of the problem and address areas that are resulting in customer dissatisfaction.
For example, imagine you receive multiple customer complaints about a product feature that does not work. Instead of fixing the problem for a couple of customers, share the concern with your product team and ask them to improve it. Communicate the same with your customers proactively. Tell them that your team is working on fixing the problem and share a realistic deadline for the same.
This simple process will help you eliminate customer problems and complaints entirely, leading to a delightful customer experience.
9. Take Proactive Feedback
To identify and reduce customer complaint barriers, you need to get proactive with your feedback process.
Proactive feedback will help you identify problems before they take an ugly turn. It is a bit like giving your car in for a service well in time rather than waiting for it to break down on the highway.
A lot of businesses share a survey with customers only once their problem has been fixed. Such surveys will help you get good ratings but will never display the complete picture. To offer a better experience, you need to share surveys every now and then to understand customer pain points.
For example, you can share open-ended questions with customers and present them with the opportunity to express themselves. Here are some examples:
- What can we do to improve our customer service?
- Is there any way we can improve the overall buying experience?
- How successful were we in meeting your quality expectations?
- Did you find all the important information on the website?
- What all challenges did you face while shopping from our online store?
Regularly monitoring the responses to these questions will help your brand fix common problems and avoid customer complaints in the future.
Read More: Survey Question: 250+Examples, Types & Best Practices
10. Turn Complaints into Valuable Lessons
Most entrepreneurs see customer complaints as roadblocks to business growth. However, if you look closely, new learning opportunities can stem from negative feedback.
While it’s good to reduce customer complaints, you must always analyze them. Encourage customers to voice their complaints and turn negative feedback into positive lessons for your team.
Here are some actions you can take for better complaint management:
- Share complaints with other departments: Received a complaint about incorrect billing? Share it with your accounts and billing department. Received a complaint about delayed delivery? Share it with your logistics team or the courier partner. Create a transparent process and hold teams accountable for specific complaints.
- Monitor Conversations: Monitor every single conversation your team has with customers over the phone, live chat, or email. See what is working well and what can infuriate customers. Share examples of agents dealing successfully with customer complaints and set the right example for everyone.
- Offer Discounts: To turn any negative situation into a positive one, you can offer meaningful discounts to customers. Share a personalized apology email and attach some perks, discount coupons that can help you make up for the mistake.
Reduce Customer Complaints, Increase Customer Happiness
Complaints can grow exponentially if not handled in time. A customer shares a problem, your team is slow to respond, the customer shares on social media, and soon everyone has joined the ride – leading to a snowball effect.
For reducing customer complaints, you need to see every negative feedback as a doorway to massive growth. Set clear expectations with customers, train employees on soft skills, and avoid making promises that you can never fulfill.
Remember that mistakes do happen in the first place and even big brands such as Amazon, Apple, or Starbucks are not immune to them. However, how you deal with them can make all the difference. We are sure now you know how to reduce customer complaints. Just follow the strategies mentioned in this blog and enhance customer satisfaction.
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