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Leadership Advice: 4 Steps to Treat Complaints as Opportunities

# Business Management
# Sales and Marketing

Turn those frowns around :)

September 18, 2023

If no one in the printing industry ever made a mistake, the job of a customer service representative would be less stressful. But here's an interesting twist: Your company would also have less opportunity to impress customers.

Printed pieces don't always meet their specs, products sometimes are delivered late and things can go awry that aren't your company's fault. So think of it this way: It's a good thing your company is bound to make mistakes.

Why? Because a complaint from a customer is as valuable as a gift. With each complaint comes an opportunity to improve the quality of your service and astonish customers. What's more, a customer with a satisfactorily resolved problem will produce on average three times the revenue of a customer without a problem, according to Minneapolis-based Performance Research Associates.

Here are 4 steps printers can take to treat complaints as opportunities:

1. Emphasize the issue.

Start a campaign that aims to emphasize the value of customer complaints. Talk about it at every team meeting. If your company has the budget, design and print posters, buttons and cups with a slogan reflecting this concept. The idea is to begin to ingrain this concept into your everyday way of thinking. Next, you need to put the concept into action when a customer comes to you with a problem.

2. Thank the customer.

When customers complain, express your appreciation for their honest comments. Remember, the client is giving you an opportunity to improve your service instead of simply walking away and taking his or her business elsewhere. Saying "thank you" tells a customer you're glad the problem was brought to your attention. Reinforce in the customer's mind that you and your company want to work with him or her to reach a resolution.

Try a sentence such as, "Thank you for informing me of the problem so that we can work to solve it to your satisfaction." Also, you might want to let the client know that after you reach a resolution, you will use the experience to improve upon your overall level of service.

3. Apologize for the situation.

Apologizing for the customer's unhappiness over the problem is the next step. Remember, you're working toward accepting complaints positively. You can do this more powerfully if you thank the customer first. Apologizing first may leave the client with the message that you won't actually do anything to fix the problem. This lessens the impact of valuing the complaint.

It's also important to remember to apologize even if the problem is the customer's fault. For example, if a customer signed off on a proof, then found a typo in the printed piece and is complaining about the result, the fact that you're dealing with an unhappy customer (who may be sending lots of business to your company) should trump the fact that he or she should have caught the error. (With better proofreading on your part, you could have, too.) By apologizing for the customer's unhappiness with a situation, you're not saying you're personally responsible for the dissatisfaction.

4. Use complaints as a stepping stone to recognize your customer service personnel.

Make a practice of using complaints as a stepping stone to improving the quality of your team's customer service skills. One printer based in Tennessee mails out comment cards with each order so customers can rate the company and the sales rep on efficiency, professionalism, problems with their order, satisfactory conclusions to any problems and overall satisfaction with the company.

When a handful of comment cards come back to the printer, the company holds a ceremony for customer service reps, honoring one who received high ratings. The person receives public recognition, as well as a photo and story about his or her excellent customer service skills in the company's monthly newsletter.***The next time a customer complains, try those 4 steps and watch your service levels (and reputation as a problem-solver) improve.

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