Tag Archives: complaint handling

I don’t have the authority

give authority

We’ve all heard it haven’t we “I’m sorry, I don’t have the authority to do that; I’ll need to get my manager.”  It’s certainly frustrating for a customer, but also demotivating for a team member knowing that they can’t resolve the problem even if they wanted to. And of course, this wastes your time too, when you’re called over to deal with the situation.

Here are 5 things to save you time, make team members feel empowered and trusted, and keep your customers happy when complaint handling…

1. Anticipate

Of course, prevention is better than cure, so involve your team in looking for solutions to common issues. Often what’s not obvious to us can be obvious to them.

But in any business there are times when things don’t go according to plan or mishaps happen. Equip your team to deal with the unexpected.

2. Train

The more you can anticipate issues the more you can prepare your team to handle such situations, the more confident they’ll be, and the more likely they’ll deal smoothly with anything that crops up.

Even if you can’t avoid the issue, your goal is to minimise the negative impact on the customer experience, so teach them how to do this!

For example: how to minimise the impact of queues, what to do when a customer makes a scene, how to apologise without losing face when they make a mistake on a customer’s order or when something the customer really wants is no longer available.

It’s easy for the team members to get flustered when it goes wrong, so make this part of your training.

3. Agree levels of authority

Establish up front what levels of authority your team members have in any given situation, be that complaint handling or any other situation. Define these levels of authority when training, and give examples of when they need to refer to a manager or get sign off, and when it’s OK for them to make the decision.

4. Feedback and learn

Create a culture where it’s accepted that they won’t know all the answers or always know what to do, so it’s still OK to escalate if need be. There will never be one size fits all when complaint handling. But use this as an opportunity to learn for next time.

5. Recognise

Give your team a sense of ownership and pride by encouraging them to come forward with their own ideas of how the customer experience can be improved and make every effort to take their ideas on board. And when they’ve come up with their own solution to a customer’s problem give recognition where it’s due, then they’re far more likely to do so again!

If you only do one thing

Look back over the past couple of weeks, and review the most common situations when you or another manager has been called to assist with a customer issue. Then agree with your team what’s within their power to resolve these in future.

Then trust them to deliver!

related post:

Are complaints a good thing?


Fluff Busting

Do you ever find yourself having conversations with a customer or team members and then they say to you at a later date, ” No, that’s not really what I meant!”and you realise that you have completely misunderstood them?

Or they misunderstand you; you’ve made a comment that’s been mis-interpreted?

How does this happen?

Because we all filter or delete information it can mean the information we share or receive, or questions we ask can be very general or vague, making it difficult for others to fully understand the question, issue or action required.

We are all inclined to generalise, exaggerate or distort situations by the language we use, and this can easily take us off track when we are communicating with others.

In order to overcome this, we often need to drill down to get specifics; to recognise the ‘fluff’ in our communications and learn the art of clarification or ‘ fluff busting’.

Fluff busting can help in three ways:

  1. To help us to say what we mean as precisely as possible
  2. To help us to understand as clearly as possible what other people mean
  3. To help other people to understand exactly what they really do mean

This is particularly important at times when wires can get crossed – such as dealing with customer complaints.

Here are the four main areas of ‘fluff’ and ambiguity, and how to overcome them.

Generalisations, exaggerations and distortions

These include words like always, never, everyone, nobody. For example: “This happens every time!” Or, ’’Everyone is always so unhelpful’.

You want to challenge with respect and probe/explore their sweeping statements.

The ideal response to this type of statement on paper might be ‘Really? Everyone? Always?’ but when handling complaints it can seem sarcastic or patronising if we’re not careful, so better to ask for some examples and gather the facts.

Abstract nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs

These are the words which are often used to describe the type of service or response the customer is looking for, for example quick, quality, good fun, luxury, value for money. The problem with these types of words is that they mean different things to different people. What might be luxury to you may be very different for the customer; one person’s idea of value for money may be very different from somebody else’s.

So, check for clarity – what do you mean by that?

Respond to these types of words by asking for examples of what constitutes good fun, value for money, etc, or ask what criteria they would use to define these things.

Another example might include throwaway comments such as ‘Your receptionist was really unhelpful.’  So again, check what they mean by this or ask, ‘How specifically was he/she unhelpful?’

Or a comment from a team member such as saying, ‘I don’t feel confident to do that’. So again, check what they mean by this or ask ‘what areas are you unsure of?

Comparisons

These are the words that we would use to compare one thing and another for example quicker, faster, cheaper, better, best, bigger, smaller.

In order to be useful, we need to know what things are being compared to and any measurement involved.

To put this into context an example might be ‘I’d hoped for something cheaper than that’ your response might be ‘What is your budget?’ Or your customer asks “Do you have anything bigger?” You need to identify how much bigger? Are they looking for something 10% bigger, twice the size or 10 times the size?!

Rules & Blocks

Rules are often self-imposed and may be determined by past experience, or our own sense of values.  These include statements like “I couldn’t possibly agree to that.’ Or “I must get this sorted today.”  What you want to do is to identify where the pressure or barrier is coming from, so use questions such as ‘What is preventing you?’ or ‘What would happen if you did/didn’t?’ these replies open up possibilities in the other person’s mind and can create a new awareness.

For example, you ask a team member to carry out a task and they reply ‘I can’t do that”. This could be for any number of reasons: Is this because they don’t know how to? In which case is it because they haven’t been shown, or they simply believe they won’t do it well due to their lack of confidence. They may believe they can’t do it due to lack of authority or access to the tools or resources to do it. Or they may simply say they can’t as they don’t have time. Each situation needs a different approach in the way you handle it.

A word of caution

This degree of precision would not be appropriate in every situation, so only use it when it is important to really understand other’s meaning. Remember the importance of maintaining rapport when you are using this technique; it is not to make people feel they are under interrogation.

This is one reason why you should try to avoid using the question ‘ why?‘ When people hear that question they often react on the defensive and looking for excuses or justifications. Each of the above examples work better by using what we call ‘ softeners’ where you start the question with expressions such as ‘ I’m wondering what…….’

So remember to cut through the fluff when you are:

  1. Asking for help or giving instructions
  2. Identifying customer needs and expectations
  3. Handling objections or responding to customer complaints
  4. Faced with objections or barriers from team members

to ensure you are really clear on what you mean and you fully understand what other people mean.


Big Rocks

Complaint handling

Complaint handling  – It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. That’s because it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

But, before you get onto “Big Rocks” I have a big rock of my own, and could do with your help, please.

I’m currently working on a new programme to help businesses deliver their own customer service training in-house. I need to make sure I have considered everything, and this is where you come in. If you could have a private conversation with me about developing customer service skills, with your team, what 2 questions would you like to ask me? Just click here and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.

As you plan for the year ahead here’s something to bear in mind…

You may have heard of Stephen Covey’s idea of the rocks and the jar. In case you haven’t it goes like this…

Covey takes a jar, into which he places a few big rocks. Then he adds a bunch of small pebbles, and finally some sand, which fits in around the rocks and pebbles.

The jar symbolises our time, the rocks represent our important priorities, the small pebbles represent things that matter, but that you could live without, and finally the sand which represents busy tasks that aren’t important, and are likely only done to waste time or get small tasks accomplished.

When you place the big rocks in the jar first, then put in the pebbles, and finally the sand, everything either fits in, or the only thing that won’t fit is excess sand.

The metaphor here is that if you try and do this in the reverse order putting sand in first, then the pebbles you can’t fit in the big rocks.

This holds true with the things you let into your life. If you spend all your time on the small and insignificant things, you will run out of room for the things that are actually important.

While you can always find time to work or do chores, it is important to manage the things that really matter first. The big rocks are your priorities, while the other things in your life are represented by pebbles and sand.

One such big rock is scheduling time for staff development, such as setting aside time for developing customer service skills, or any activity which helps develop your service culture.

Let’s take complaint handling as an example. It’s all too easy to wait until something has gone wrong to discover your team are not that confident or competent in dealing with complaints, only to end up with a niggling customer complaint escalating into a major problem. If team members had been trained and coached in complaint handling in advance such a situation could probably be avoided. But it’s all too easy to let these proactive (big rocks) shift down the priority list.

One of the challenges is that we see these big rocks as scary overwhelming tasks. But if your managers and supervisors have the skills to deliver training in-house (be that identifying customer needs, complaint handling, managing customer expectations). It means you can break down this training into bite-size sessions which you can schedule in over several days, several weeks, or simply make part of your weekly/monthly routine.

So, the moral of the story? As you plan for the year ahead, put in the big rocks first – the things that are important, such as staff development and training, even though they are not necessarily urgent yet, or else they won’t fit into the jar. i.e. schedule these into your calendar first.

p.s. please send me your questions- what 2 questions would you like to ask me about developing customer service skills? Just click reply to this email and send me your questions. I can’t guarantee I’ll be able to answer individually… But I will try to answer them in a future newsletter. Thank you.



I’ll have to get my manager

When you’re a customer and want to make a complaint the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll have to go and get my manager…”

Not only is it frustrating for you as the customer, it’s demeaning for the employee and time consuming of the manager.

This week I’ve been training line managers, giving them the skills and confidence to coach their own teams in how to handle customer complaints, so they can trust their team to handle them effectively.

This means customers get any complaints handled swiftly, team members feel empowered, and managers are freed up to get on with other things.

You can watch here to discover the 4 key areas we covered.

So what’s the process in your business when a customer has a complaint? Do your team have the skills and confidence to deal with complaints, and do their line managers have the skills and confidence to train, coach, and support them?

 


Who handles your customer complaints?

Coaching in Complaint Handling

When you’re a customer and want to make a complaint the last thing you want to hear is “I’ll have to go and get my manager…”

Not only is it frustrating for you as the customer, it’s demeaning for the employee and time consuming of the manager.

So what’s the process in your business when a customer has a complaint? Do your team have the skills and confidence to deal with complaints, and do their line managers have the skills and confidence to train, coach, and support them?

RELATED POSTS:

Who handles your customer complaints?

 



Handling Complaints

question mark with speech bublesI’ve had a month of complaints! No, not in the way you might think… But helping a number of clients establish the best way of Handling complaints, whether that be through staff training, gathering feedback to establish the cause or establishing systems to prevent them in the first place.

It seems counter intuitive, but as a business we should welcome complaints! WHY?

Because the alternative is we’re left not knowing when the customer isn’t happy.

Obviously prevention is better than cure (and you can read tips on prevention in a previous post right here).

But of course you’re not always able to pre-empt problems and won’t be able to avoid all complaints. Accidents happen, things get missed or events occur that are totally out of our control. So what can you do to lessen the impact on your customers’ experience and limit the potential damage to your customer relationships and your reputation?

Aim to spot problems as early as possible. Listen and observe. You can often sense there’s an issue long before you get told directly. And of course it’s far better to resolve a problem there and then than have a negative review posted on line.

Empower your team

Give your team the skills and authority to deal with complaints as they happen. Encourage them and train them in handling complaints: how to ask for feedback and just as importantly how to respond when they get negative feedback.

This is far better for the customer because it gets a quicker solution, far better for the team member because they’re able to deal with it which gives them pride, and far better for you because it means you don’t have to always been involved. This doesn’t mean to say that don’t want to hear about complaints particularly if there are common recurring problems that need to be resolved.

Don’t assume because you’ve told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently.  It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!  Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

Agree with them their levels of authority so they know just how much leeway they have in offering the customer/guest compensation, and at what point they may need to involve a manager.

Observe how your staff handle complaints and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

It’s all too easy when we hear of a complaint to blame someone in the team for the problem. Put the team first and they’ll reward you with avoiding problems.

 

Here’s a little 5 stage checklist you may find useful in customer service training on handling a complaint effectively irrespective of the cause.

I use this structure when training and together these form the acronym LEARN which is easy for team member to remember.

The way you handle the situation is what your customers will remember and if you can go above and beyond to resolve the problem, even when it’s down to a third party, customer error or even an act of God, it’s your resolve of the situation they’ll remember, not the cause.

Related post: Are complaints a good thing?


Complaint Handling

Do you see complaints is a good thing?

How engage your team in complaint handling

Complaint Handling

Complaint Handling

Getting feedback from your guests is essential to gauge whether or not what you offering is right for your target audience. Whether it’s positive or negative and whether you agree with it or not is key to your success.

So why is it then that so many businesses seem to ignore this fact?

There was a time when customers were reserved about giving direct feedback, particularly complaints; they didn’t want to be seen to making a fuss, and anyway if they did complain they felt nothing would change. They would just vote with their feet and just not come back again.

Of course all that’s changed now with the advent of social media; people do complain, but all too often this comes too late for us to remedy the situation and instead of just telling us they tell the whole world.

So the more we can do to get direct feedback, warts and all, the greater the likelihood we have of resolving the situation there and then, turning it around and turning what could have been a tragic moment into a magic moment.

Unless we get people’s feedback we can’t do anything about it.

Most people accepted that with the best will in the world from time to time things go wrong, and how we resolve the situation gets remembered.

 

Prevention is better than cure

Make sure your guests feel comfortable to give feedback at every opportunity.

Face-to-face feedback will always be the most effective and ideally we need to get feedback before it’s too late to do something about it. If what you have provided fails to meet expectations you’d rather know about it before the guest leaves so you can resolve it, there and then.

As well is asking at the end of each course, the meal or their stay, be observant and look out for signs that things aren’t right or that someone wants to get your attention. For example if a diner has hardly touched their steak but eaten everything else that might suggest there was a problem with the steak. Or you hear a guest complaining about the temperature of their room to others in their party probably suggests something that needs investigating.

If you know that something’s not right be up front with your guests and let them know before it becomes a problem. Offer alternatives if necessary and then keep them informed of the situation.

For example if you know their room won’t be ready tell them the situation, offer them the option of afternoon tea in the lounge, or a nice walk they might like to take, and give them an expected time that their room will be ready.

Equally if you’ve a backlog in the kitchen and they may have a wait for their main course let them know as soon as possible. If they are on a tight schedule they may not be prepared to wait but at least they’ve been given the option to choose a simpler dish, skip a course  or as a last resort eat elsewhere before they are committed or you prepare something they don’t have time to eat.

 

Talk to your guests

Being visible in your hotel or restaurant, and making contact with your guests builds rapport and trust. Once you’ve gained this you’re in a far better position to gain valuable feedback first hand.  The same goes for your staff too, so encourage them to talk to your guests. Give them the appropriate training to ask for feedback in the knowledge that they are confidence to deal with feedback – good or bad – in a positive way. Bare in mind your guests will tell you things that they wouldn’t feedback to your staff, and vice versa.

 

Ask the right questions

Making statements such as “I hope you enjoyed your meal” or “was everything all right for you?” is not likely to get the customer to open up. We need to ask specific questions that will give something more than a yes or no. Open questions starting with how or what are the most useful; for example how would you rate …, how could we improve on …, what did you like most about ….

I don’t mean put guests on the spot. If you’ve already got a good rapport with your guests you’ll be able to do this quite naturally in a conversational way.

Guests will be flattered if you ask for their opinions. So also ask for their feedback on how things can be improved and their recommendations and new ideas. Then keep them up to date with the changes they’ve made to demonstrate that you have been listening. What a great excuse to invite them back again to show them the changes you’ve implemented?

Capture the good and the bad. Even if you don’t agree with feedback you need to find out (tactfully) what has led to their perception, as this may lead to the root of the problem.

Questionnaires are impersonal and few people like to fill them in except maybe when they’re really unhappy about something. The more you can find out through a two-way conversation with your customers the better. But it does give those who didn’t want to say anything at the time, perhaps because they were embarrassed or didn’t want to make a fuss in front of their party a chance to feedback.

 

Online reviews

Love them or hate them, online reviews do get read and will influence prospective customers. Sadly statistically people are more likely to be prompted to post a review if they’ve a bad experience than when they’ve had a good one. So aim to redress this balance, by encouraging as many as your guests as possible to post reviews, so you get the good ones as well as (hopefully only occasional) bad ones.

Display your confidence by encouraging your guests and website visitors to link to TripAdvisor and other review sites. One of the easiest things you could do is to put a link from your website, and on your post stay e-mails, and prompt people who have enjoyed their stay to post a review.

But the least you can do is show people you appreciate the feedback (good or bad) by responding quickly to the feedback you receive. Register with TripAdvisor, etc. and set up a Google alert so you know whenever anyone is talking about your business online, so that you can monitor your reviews by receiving notifications.

This is particularly important for negative feedback to show that you have looked into the situation and taken things on board. If I see a complaint online that the management hasn’t made a reply to I think they don’t care.

Feedback that you feel is unjustified can be frustrating, but the way in which you handle this will reflect on your professionalism and reputation, so deal with it in a constructive way. Take the discussion off-line as quickly as possible by asking them to phone you. This then provides an opportunity for you to get more detail and having a better chance of resolving the situation without having to share the discussion with the rest of the world.

Don’t be too concerned about the occasional negative comment. This demonstrates authenticity of the content and in some cases can actually help to highlight the type of hotel you are. For example, if you have a comment that the hotel is not child friendly, this may be seen as a positive for some potential guests.

Watch out too for feedback through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites so you can respond accordingly.

 

Dealing with negative feedback

It can be easy to get defensive when we receive feedback, particularly when we feel it is not justified or we totally disagree with it. But this just makes te whole complaint handling process more difficult. What we need to ask is what led to this customer’s perception. This sometimes involves asking questions in a tactful way. The key thing is to show some empathy with the customer’s point of view.

Even if we disagree, something must have triggered their perception.  So listen to what your guest is saying, and aim to turn a negative into a positive. The least you can do is apologise (even if you’re just apologising that they feel that way) and demonstrate what changes you’ve made if appropriate.

 

Empower your team

Develop a culture of customer service amongst your team. Give your team training in Complaint Handling and the authority to deal with complaints as they happen. Encourage them and train them how to ask for feedback and just as importantly how to respond when they get complaints or negative feedback.

This is far better for the customer because it gets a quicker solution, far better for the team member because they’re able to deal with it which gives them pride, and far better for you because it means you don’t have to always been involved. This doesn’t mean to say that don’t want to hear about complaints particularly if there are common recurring problems that need to be resolved.

Don’t assume because you’ve told people how to do something they will be able to just go out and deliver it consistently.  It’s all very well knowing what to say, but you know how sometimes when you come to say something the words just don’t trip off the tongue as you might hope!  Let your team practise in a safe environment, based on different scenarios.

Agree with them their levels of authority so they know just how much leeway they have in offering the customer/guest compensation, and at what point they may need to involve a manager.

Observe how your staff handle complaints and give them feedback after the event on what they did well, what they could do more of, and give the appropriate support and guidance on areas where they need more help.

It’s all too easy when we hear of a complaint to blame someone in the team for the problem. Put the team first and they’ll reward you with avoiding problems.

 

Here’s a little Complaint Handling checklist you may find useful:

LEAF

Listen

  • Listen to the customer – they want to get it off their chest – You need to identify the problem
  • Show you’re listening – remember your body language and keep eye contact
  • Reflect back to the customer to check your understanding and show the customer you’ve understood
  • Park the emotion and focus on the facts

Empathise

  • Apologise – this isn’t necessarily accepting responsibility, but apologising that they’ve been put out or disappointed or that they feel that way
  • Do not take it personally
  • Show you care and that you understand their concern, why they might be disappointed or why they feel angry
  • They’re not interested in excuses – even if the problem wasn’t your fault show that you’re looking to come to a solution to the problem for your guest

Action

  • And ask what they would see as an acceptable solution
  • Offer alternatives so the customer feels they are in control of the solution
  • Look to overcompensate by at least a few percent – there’s no need to go overboard but just consider what would be reasonable for both parties – It’s not always about throwing money at the problem
  • Tell the customer what you are going to do and not why things went wrong (unless that’s what they ask)

Follow Up

  • Keep your promise and deliver
  • Check that the customer is happy with the outcome
  • Learn from the feedback you’ve had and look into recurring trends – aim to prevent a similar complaint happening again
  • Pass on to your team so they know how to resolve similar situations in future

With the right approach complaints can turn a negative into positive. You can’t always get everything right, but when you don’t make sure you fix it!

Join me on my webinar this Wednesday when I’ll be discussing:

Related posts:

Empower your team to handle complaints

I don’t have the authority

Learn from Complaints

Handling Complaints

Complaint handling training materialscomplaint handling training materials

Developing Service Superstars HLT nb

Caroline Cooper