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Dealing with complaints

December 30, 2019

Dealing with complaints is something which will occur at some point in time for every business. No matter how thorough you are in your work and how hard you strive to ensure every client is satisfied, it is inevitable that at some point in time, somebody will be unhappy. Having a complaint is not a nice feeling for any tradesperson, as we all work hard to keep customers happy with our work. What does make a difference though is how you approach this scenario. Here we take a look at the importance of dealing with any customer complaints in a professional, prompt and polite manner which will enhance the reputation of your business.

Putting emotions to one side when dealing with customer complaints

You’ve worked tirelessly on that job, so when an angry email, phone call or public review comes in complaining that the work you’ve done isn’t up to scratch, it can come as a crushing blow. This is usually made worse by the fact that unhappy customers are often not the most polite when it comes to them expressing their displeasure. It can sometimes seem tempting to hit back in response or to dismiss the complaint and avoid it altogether simply. Neither of these is an appropriate scenario. As any reputable tradesman will tell you, that won’t help your reputation long term and a lot of work will come from word of mouth as this reputation grows – or not come, in the case of a bad one. It’s essential to put any negative emotions to one side when dealing with customer complaints head-on.

Tackle the problem quickly and efficiently

If the complaint is over something which can be easily changed and fixed, then do so. In some cases it may seem easier to provide a refund and cut your losses, but if you can put things right then do – even if it means cutting into your own time and profit. This being said, offering a refund or a reduced price may also seem like a blow to business, but could be a small price to pay to keep a customer satisfied.

dealing with complaints

Encourage customer loyalty

The key to any successful trade business is a good reputation based on the responses of many loyal customers. Keep people on your side and not only will they return to you in the future when they require your services once more, but they will also pass your details around alongside their positive reviews. While a negative review may initially lead you to believe that you have lost this customer for the foreseeable future, the opposite is quite true. In many circumstances, a customer who receives a timely and helpful response to a negative review and who sees the positive end results through will be more likely to return to you for future business. They have seen and experienced the dedication and commitment you put into your business and will appreciate the efforts you put in to resolve any issues. By taking these appropriate steps, you can build up a personal connection with your customers and provide them with some confidence that you are a true professional within your industry.

Follow up customer complaints

Once you have dealt with the complaint appropriately, you must follow this up with a courtesy call or a letter of apology. This should detail information about the complaint, the changes made to fix any errors and a note to apologise once again for any inconvenience caused to the customer. This simple step could go a long way in helping you to build and maintain that positive reputation that every tradesperson thrives off of.

Now we know how to deal with complaints when they do come in, let’s take a look to consider how they can be best avoided.

How to prevent complaints in the first place?

Although infrequent complaints are a normality that any business will face, if you are receiving a lot of complaints regularly, then something needs to change. In order to minimise the number of complaints your business receives, you should:

1 – Complete jobs promptly, meeting the specifications of the initial quote.
2 – Communicate effectively with your client throughout the process.
3 – Remain polite and courteous at all times on site.
4 – Tidy up after yourselves and treat customers properties with respect.
5 – Complete work to the highest possible standard, no matter how small the task.

These are just a handful of the things that you must consider, but meeting these five requirements will put you in good standing to keep your clients happy.

What to do when it is going wrong?

Are you currently working on a project which you can already sense is going wrong? Has the customer begun to point hints towards their negative feelings towards the task at hand? It’s not too late to save this from turning into a complaint. One of the best ways of dealing with complaints is to address them before they have been formally made. Communication is key. If you have an inkling that your client is unhappy, speak to them. Ask them how they’re feeling about the work completed so far. Keep them in the loop. Explain to them the details of the process. Are you going to be delayed? Discuss this with them as far in advance as possible. Communicating clearly and effectively with clients is such an important step to take in order to keep them happy. We would always recommend making efforts to speak to clients face-to-face if possible, or over the phone; as vocal communication will help you to build a relationship more than emails ever will.

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Dealing with difficult scenarios

All of these things coming into consideration; sometimes, clients just can’t be helped. There are some difficult scenarios which will require legal assistance, where clients won’t be satisfied with the job no matter how you try to resolve things. In these circumstances, it’s important to seek legal aid. Citizens Advice will be able to provide you with further information in these situations, to ensure you approach things in a way which cannot reflect badly on your business.

What if my customer changes their mind mid-way through the job?

This is a tricky scenario and is one which must be handled with care. Of course, it’s too late to consider things like signing contracts before work begins – although this is something to bear in mind for any future jobs. In this circumstance, we would certainly advise you to seek legal assistance to come up with a fair and reasonable solution which will cover your costs and keep your customer satisfied.

What if my customer agrees to a specification change but then does not like the end result?

Firstly, we would always recommend that moving forward any changes to the initial brief and specification must be made in writing, to cover both parties in events like these. In this scenario, communicating clearly with your client to find out what it is they are unhappy with is usually key. They could very well be satisfied with a minor change. Discuss with them and if communication proves to be difficult, consider a mediation company who will be able to take charge of the process.

What if my customer has asked for additional extras and then refuses to pay, stating that they believed they would be included in the initial quote?

It’s important that moving forward any additional costs are provided clearly in writing to clients before any work is carried out, to avoid any nasty scenarios on either end. In this circumstance, seek legal aid. It may be that if the amount due is minimal; swallowing your losses could be the most suitable option, to keep your customers satisfied. Remember to get everything written down on paper in the future.

Should you require any additional assistance in keeping your customers satisfied and dealing with customer complaints, take a look at our member’s area to find more useful content.

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