When was the last time you made a complaint to a business about their service?
I can’t share with you my most recent experience about wanting to complain, because I couldn’t actually find a way to contact the business to tell them of the complaint… but that’s another story.
I’m interested in how people handle complaints and particularly if they get caught up in the apology or get focussed on the solution.
In an article published earlier this year in Harvard Business Review, it contrasts an employee handling a complaint about a customer who has lost baggage from their flight with too much empathy, versus an employee who has just the right amount of empathy in dealing with such complaint. (see article here)
I find reviewing complaint handling procedures is a fantastic exercise for leaders to reinforce empathy within their teams. Why? Because most complaints happen when leaders are not available.
As a leader, it is important to let go, not feel you always have control and realise that your role is to empower your people.
To give your employees the best possible chance of displaying empathy with a customer, consider approaching empathy (via your complaint handling procedure) in the following ways:
- Review your complaint handling procedure and consider the overarching message for an employee when they are learning the complaint handling process. Are they hearing “Keep apologising” or are they hearing “Get on with fixing the problem with care”?
- Gather a group of employees from your business to discuss complaint handling. Ask them how empowered they feel to fix problems themselves, what tools they would want access to for them to be more empowered, and what further support they may need from you to make sure that at the end of the day the customer is getting a strong sense that their problem will be resolved.
- Something as simple as encouraging staff to paraphrase and sum up what the next steps are, that they will be doing to help fix the problem, is often all a customer needs to hear to feel satisfied they are in good hands.
When did you last review your complaints handling procedure and look at the steps through the eyes of the customer? How quickly do you get to solving the problem?
‘Love Being in Service’
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