Complaints How we deal with them

Published:  01 June, 2021

This is our belief at CCM. While every attempt is made at customer satisfaction inevitably occasionally things go wrong which leads to customer complaints. We encourage customers to give feedback, especially negative to enable us to improve our services. If you are happy, tell others. If not, tell us.
    
Face to face complaints
These can sometimes be the worst. It puts you on the spot and it is human nature to become defensive. As hard as it is, do not react. What happens in that moment, your emotional brain engages and you react on emotion not on rational thoughts. Stay calm. In a face-to-face situation, body language is a giveaway. How you stand, where you put your arms, your facial expression all tells its own story. You must try and remain in a neutral stance, so that you do not come across as defensive.
    
You need to listen, but in the right way. The biggest mistake people make is that they listen to respond and do not listen to understand. Of course, you want to defend your team but this is not the moment to do it. Listen to what the customer is complaining about, be empathetic, show some understanding and acknowledge what their complaint is about. Ask them what their ideal resolution would be. Let them know that you have taken on board what has been said, that you will investigate their issue and you will get back to them with your findings.

Written complaints
Some people find it easier to complain in writing, not having the ability to feel comfortable complaining face to face. The absolute first, is to acknowledge the complaint immediately. Again, show empathy and understanding, explain that you will investigate and respond with your findings. Do not let people put you under pressure, explain that you need time to investigate properly as you do not wish to make a rash decision. Do not get off topic, it is so easy to come back with what you have done good and not actually deal with the issue. Stay focussed on the complaint.

Honesty
At CCM, one of our team values is honesty. If you find during your investigations into a complaint, that you have made a mistake or your conduct/service has not been what it should have been, be honest. Own up. Imagine how your customer feels when you own up and admit, “yes, sorry, our service was not up to scratch.” We recently had a complaint from a long-standing customer regarding our poor service and the fact that there was an error on her paperwork. Said customer went on to say how they continuously use us as our service was usually superb but was very disappointed this time.
    
Following my investigations, I discovered we did make a few errors with her paperwork. I responded with the following: “This is a process that we follow, to ensure that we order all the relevant parts that may be required as to not hold up the job. In this instance, it seems that we invoiced you without deleting said parts from your invoice, which was a mistake on our behalf. I am not making excuses for our team; we have been very busy doing out upmost to keep customers vehicles on the road. It is never our intention to mislead and we strive to carry out good workmanship and service. Please accept our sincere apologies for the upset that this has caused you.”
    
The email went on with the customer apologising for complaining and admitting that the whole COVID-19 situation had got to her and that she had overreacted. Would her response have been the same if we had got defensive, denied doing any wrong and just pushed the blame back at her?

Bad reviews
It is upsetting when someone tarnishes your reviews with a bad one, but I believe it makes them more credible. Can anyone really get five-star reviews all the time with no negative remarks at all? Anyone who looks at reviews, never just read the bad ones, you will read many. Having the odd bad one makes you human, shows you do and can make mistakes and sometimes your service does slip. How you respond is much more important that the bad review. Would one bad review stop someone using you? Absolutely not. The point is, how you react to someone, causes a reaction. What reaction do you want?
    
Sometimes people have genuine reasons to complain, be honest if that is the case, do what you can to rectify the situation. That is what people will remember. Firstly, that you acknowledge that you were wrong and secondly, that you did something about it. Sometimes people just need to let off steam. By being empathetic and understanding can be enough for them to rant and walk away. Sometimes people just need to complain because that is their nature. In this case, there is nothing you can do. Just do not invite or encourage them to come back.
    
One of the most common complaints is about costs. Do not take ownership of someone’s problem. When communicating with customers regarding their vehicle needs, do not use negative words, like “unfortunately, I’m sorry to say, sadly, I’m afraid.” It is not your fault that their vehicle is broken, failed or needs a service. So long that you have communicated to your customer throughout, any issue with costs should be avoided. Most of the time you find that you have done no wrong. It is often a misunderstanding, or someone’s expectations not being met. In all these scenarios, use them as examples to improve. Why were there misunderstandings, why was that person’s expectations not met, what can we do to make sure this does not happen again. Remember, do not be defensive, think about your body language, be empathetic and treat people how you would like to be treated. You will be pleasantly surprised.

What you can do
Have in place and on show a customer care charter detailing that you use OE quality parts, that all repairs and servicing meet or exceed the expected standards of this industry. Explain that staff are continually trained and provide the best possible standards of workmanship. This enables your staff and your customers to know that you are doing everything possible to deliver high quality work and service. Then add what the procedure is when a customer wants to make a complaint.
    
Have a vision and values. This is imperative as it becomes the guidelines for staff to use when dealing with any issues. Give your Front of House staff autonomy to deal with the little niggles that come in. Positive intent;  believe that your staff will look after your best interests, allow them to issue a refund or offer a discount if that is what they believe is the best resolution. Some complaints are very minor and can be dealt with immediately.  Make sure everyone is aware of the escalation route, time scale and who to escalate to. Any complaint must be acknowledged immediately, with the intent of following up/investigating in a reasonable amount of time. This must be communicated to the customer. Ask the customer what their ideal resolution is. If the customer finds the proposal unsatisfactory, then is the time to move to mediation or legal settlement. When a complaint has been resolved, follow this up again, depending on the size and nature of the complaint. Overall, effective communication is crucial. Lastly, and crucially, ensure that you act fairly and honestly.

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