The first step in effectively handling a complaint is to develop a plan within your company. This would include empowerment levels, when, where, and who should handle complaints and the escalation process. The plan, once developed, should be clearly communicated to everyone within your company to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings.

With a plan in place, you’ll be ready to follow these steps when handling a complaint:

1. Listen to customers and their concerns objectively. It is often our first instinct to become defensive when a customer has a complaint: This type of response will not only hinder the progression toward an amicable resolution, but it is also most likely to make matters worse.

2. Take a moment to thank the customer for taking time out of their day to share his or her concerns with you. Then briefly recap the situation to confirm your understanding of their issue.

3. Reassure the customer that you are going to see that the concern will be handled. Let them know what the next step will be. If the complaint is within your power to handle, then do so based on your company’s guidelines. If the complaint involves you having to research the situation in more depth or involve another member of your staff, then tell the customer you’re going to investigate the situation at hand. Set expectations with the customer and give them of a definitive time frame for when you will be updating them on the situation.

NOTE: The worst thing we can do as customer service representatives is to put off dealing with an issue. The longer a customer waits for a clear resolution to the problem, the bigger the problem becomes. This also increases the probability of the customer telling others and taking complaints to outlets such as social media, news stations and consumer reporting agencies.

4. Finally, if you are escalating the complaint to someone else, you must still remain involved and ensure that the customer is satisfied and that the concern has been resolved. You should take ownership of any concerns you are made aware of. It is a great practice to follow up with customers after the agreed-upon resolution has been delivered, to make sure they have not harbored any negativity about the situation nor experienced anything else that could cause them to feel negatively about their experiences with your company.

No one likes to dwell on shortcomings or pitfalls within our company. To keep this from being a repetitive concern, you should make note of the complaint so you can figure out why the situation occurred and what can be done better within your company. You may find it was a lack of communication, a breakdown in a specific process, or an oversight. Whatever the cause may be, get together with your team to develop a plan of action to make sure this becomes an isolated incident within your company.

One final note: We often play the blame game with customers and fail to admit our own shortcomings or that of our company. We may also want to place blame on a coworker or another department within our company. This is not the proper way to satisfy a customer. The customer sees only one entity, the company, accept fault or responsibility. The majority of customers are looking for understanding, someone to listen to them, and the knowledge that the company will do things differently in the future so as not to have the incident repeated going forward.

Learn more about how Nexstar Network can help you get the call center in your plumbing, HVAC or electrical business running smoothly.