Welcome to the series of How To:Quality. Your 3 min guide on how Quality Professionals address various business needs to drive Improvement and Governess.
Quality Professionals, regardless of the sector they work in, strive to help businesses achieve their strategic objectives. They do this in various ways: be it deploying governance frameworks, implementing improvement strategies, or delivering assurance programmes.
In this post I talk about how a Quality Professional and help you handle complaints. Whether you are a small business or a well established organisation, handling a breakdown with your customer is one key area to get right so you can build trust.
Here is a simple 5 step framework called Learn to Complaints
How to: Handle Complaints
This framework was introduced to me more than a decade ago in a training session I attended for service quality in the banking sector. The framework consists of five steps. It is called L.E.A.R.N to Complaints
Let’s break it down with a bit more details:
Listen: Let them air out all their complaint without interruptions.
When you receive a complaint from your customer, this is the a sign that your customer needs help. They care enough to flag this to your attention rather than just walk away from your business. Engage in the conversation with them. Pick up the phone and speak to them, especially if they submitted the complaint via email or an online form. In this step, you just listen, no interruptions, no excuses.
Empathise: When the customer finishes airing out their complaint, it’s time to show empathy with their issue.
Make the customer feel understood that what they experienced is not acceptable. In the dictionary, the definition of empathy is:
‘the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.’Oxford Dictionary
If it happened to me, I would also ….. The CX Academy talks about ‘You Get Me’ pillar in the customer experience journey. It is about making sure the customer knows we understand what it is like to walk in their shoes.
Acknowledge: acknowledge that there is a breakdown.
When emotions are addressed, logic kicks in. The customer is now ready for a bit more. The breakdown can be as simple as expectations not met or communications were not correct. This is sadly the area many businesses fail in.
I get asked a lot: What if the customer was wrong?
My answer is simple: where did they base this wrong information from? Was it from the sales process, from the first hands on experience. The breakdown in expectation has to happen somewhere and if we don’t own it now, it will only get worse.
Resolve: Time for action!
While an apology is always welcomed, resolving a complaint is making sure we are open with the customer on what our action plan to fix things will be.
If you create the space for the customer to feel heard and appreciated, you will find out that an apology and an explanation in many cases is enough. If that space was not created, then saying:’ oh yes, I would have felt the same, I am sorry you experienced this. I will raise your feedback to management’ in an email will not enough. Giving the customer a clear action plan on what your business will do to rectify this problem is key. And if you still don’t know what you will do, then communicate this. Let the customer know that you will first investigate further and then give them a clear action plan. Here is one experience I had:
I once ordered online a razor blade from a new start up in London. I was going on holiday and I wanted to take the new set with me. I ordered around a week in advance. The week passed by and I have not received my blades. My expectation was that products are usually delivered within 3 business emails. I sent an email to them asking why this delay is and that I am now travelling without my razor blades and I was not happy about it. Their response was so honest that I am now a loyal customer ever since. They clearly explained that they are a very small team that experienced delays in dispatching due to few staff sickness which meant it took longer to process my order. Now, I always order way in advance when I am in no rush, and I always ordered from them directly.
Notify: Keep the customer informed.
This is the simplest step in this entire framework. Notify them at every step of the way. When you communicate with your customer, they know you have taken ownership of the matter and have not forgotten about them.
One of the leading competency frameworks Quality professionals follow is set out by the Chartered Quality Institute. It is the CL-GAI as presented in the image to the left. If you are a Quality professional and have not joined the global body for Quality, consider it propelling your career forward with your membership: https://www.quality.org/cqimembership-become-member
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