Because customer complaints are an inescapable part of doing business, small business owners should not be fearful or resentful when customers complain.
Instead, small business owners’ focus should be on resolving the issue quickly and satisfactorily in order to retain the customer, without taking into account factors such as whether the customer is justified or the manner in which the complaint was communicated.
A complaint is essentially a cry for help when something has gone wrong; small business owners should therefore not regard it as a personal attack but rather an opportunity to identify and fix any potential problems in the business’ operating model, or to improve their communication and conflict resolution skills.
Knowing that you have the ability to defuse tense situations, relate to people from different backgrounds, and solve problems with different degrees of complexity is empowering. It can also translate into other benefits such as improved negotiation skills and knowing how to get the desired outcome when the small business owner is in the position of complaining customer.
Small business owners are responsible for imparting a similarly positive attitude to customer complaints to employees. This can be done by making it clear that negative comments about complaining customers will not be tolerated, and that employees are expected to take complaints seriously instead of ignoring or dismissing them. An essential component of this is getting employees to understand that customers are not pests and irritants, but are valuable stakeholders around whom the business is built.
Small business owners should lead by example in displaying this customer-centric attitude.
This includes dealing with some customer complaints themselves. The volume of complaints dealt with by the small business owner instead of being delegated to other employees will depend on the size of the business and the seriousness and complexity of the complaint. Even when the business is well-established and has impressive revenue and profit figures, a hands-on approach from the small business owner can do much to soothe unsettled customers and restore confidence in the business.
So be accessible and don’t be afraid to face your customers!