Anyone who’s ever provided a service knows how unpleasant getting negative feedback can be. It's stressful, especially if the client doesn’t care to frame the feedback politely. It might seem easier to ignore the comments and get back to work, but these comments are often opportunities to learn and grow.
Client complaints are a normal part of running a business. Instead of viewing them as indicators of personal failure, accept them as a normal part of your work and focus on honing your customer service and problem-solving skills to actively and effectively handle complaints.
But what is the ideal way to deal with complaints? Take a breather to gather yourself, de-stress, and handle client complaints gracefully and efficiently with this quick guide.
What’s a client complaint?
Clients complain when a service doesn’t meet their expectations. This could be because a business didn’t deliver on its commitment, or there were problems with employees, internal processes, or an aspect of the client-business relationship.
For solo preneurs, adaptability and a well-rounded skill set are essential. Many coaches don’t have a dedicated customer service line, so learning how to handle a complaint from a customer is a useful skill.
Client complaints can be seen as a part of the broader customer feedback category. When we get complaints, it may be helpful for us to analyze all of our customer feedback and look for patterns to better understand the scope and root causes of the problem.
Examples of complaints you might receive
There are five different types of customer complaints that coaches and freelancers usually get:
- Lack of availability: Your business couldn't meet a client’s schedule because your calendar was already full.
- Poor service: You didn’t meet the customer’s needs or the results they sought.
- Misunderstandings: This occurs when the customer experience doesn’t align with the client's expectations regarding your service.
- Wait-time complaint: The customer may have had to wait a long time to access the service or your business point of contact.
- No follow-up: If a problem can’t be immediately resolved, clients may want to be updated on the progress while you work towards a resolution, and you haven’t done that.
Regardless of the specifics, negative feedback indicates that a customer has had a bad experience with your business. You can customer complaints in a way that makes your customers feel valued and reassured.
5 steps to handle client complaints
When we’ve got an angry customer on our hands, how can we best leverage our customer support skills to demonstrate that we’re committed to resolving the problem? Here are some steps for managing consumer complaints:
- Acknowledge the complaint. Apologize to the customer for their negative experience and validate how they feel about the service provided. This is a great chance to practice active listening and show empathy to the client. We want to demonstrate that we care about our relationship with clients and want to ease their worries.
- Find the root of the problem. The core of complaint handling is asking the right questions in order to find what caused the issue in the first place. This is where great communication skills come into play. When a customer’s frustrated, be caring but also quick to come to a resolution.
- Respond fast. Once we’ve identified the customer’s problem, propose solutions, and start working. Dealing with problems is frustrating for clients. You want to show that your business values your clients’ time.
- Verify. Gather accurate and relevant information from the customer to solve their problems efficiently. It’s important to stay patient and communicative with the dissatisfied customer to see if the proposed solution works. If not, go back in the workflow and check if you’ve identified the problem correctly.
- Write it down. Every time the customer service team solves a complaint, you become better equipped and experienced to handle future client complaints. Writing down the solution can speed up the problem-solving process for the future, which can further improve customer experience.
Although having to deal with upset customers and negative feedback may be unpleasant, client complaints are still a valuable form of feedback that we can learn from.
In fact, if our support team does a good job of answering customers’ questions, solving problems, and goes the extra mile to make the customer experience memorable and pleasant, our business is likely to gain and retain even more loyal customers.
Tips on dealing with customers
Customer service is a difficult job. Even when we’re trying our best, clients can sometimes be unreasonable. Customer service representatives should keep these tips in mind:
- Never fight the customer or the issue. The goal of customer complaint management is to work together and find the most effective solution as quickly as possible. Seek to understand the problem, validate the customer’s feelings, resolve the problem, and follow up as necessary.
- Don’t deny the problem. When a client feels frustrated, denying their experience will only aggravate them. In fact, it may even slow the conversation down and cause more miscommunication.
- Listen. A crucial part of the problem-solving process is understanding customer needs and aligning with them. Customer reps should be patient and take the time to understand what the client’s saying, and act on that information.
- See complaints as unexpected feedback. Every complaint is a learning opportunity and a chance to get better. Get the most out of them by incorporating the solutions into daily services or product offerings.
- Remember, it isn’t personal. It’s easy to become defensive in uncomfortable situations, but keep in mind that the client likely just wants a solution to a problem that’s been troubling them. Their negative emotions aren’t personal, and we shouldn’t take them as such.
Much of client complaint management focuses on understanding the customer experience and keeping it as smooth, pleasant, and efficient as possible, despite the upset. When you think of the problem from this perspective, you become better customer service representatives and get to focus on quickly resolving the problem.
At Practice, we know it can be hard to do it all alone. Try our all-in-one client management system to streamline your business’s client interactions.