(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 6 August 2014)
Last week I was invited to address the Consumer Complaints Management Symposium held in Windhoek. The theme of the symposium was “Bridging the Gap between Industry Relations and Consumer Care” and the participants came from various industries including financial services, tourism, health care and state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
What amazed me the most that was that all the participants were the designated “consumer champion” and were there to find better ways to engage with their clients as well as getting their organisations to embrace client feedback as an integral part of doing business. This was shocking to say the least. How many times do we not hear that Namibia does not have a culture of service? I myself have in fact gone on record a few times in this regard through my various writings.
Yet here were representatives from these various industries requesting me to assist them in dealing with consumer complaints in a better manner. I hope this is not the first or last of such corporate interventions and hope to see a positive result within the next few months.
So this week, I share with our corporate readers some tips on how they can deal with consumer complaints.
1. Make sure you listen to the concerns expressed by the consumer. Most times concerns over an issue (such as shelf pricing, cleanliness of the premises, etc.) can be handled without it becoming a complaint.
2. Make sure that you record the consumer’s name, address and contact number.
3. Acknowledge that the consumer has a valid concern by getting further details on the issue.
4. Do not take the complaint personally – this could result in you feeling attacked – which is not the case. A consumer has to take time out from their schedule to inform you about the issue, the least you should do is see it from their viewpoint.
5. Allow the consumer to explain the problems without interruptions. This will show you are not trying to make excuses before they have stated their case.
6. Ask questions to get a better understanding of the issue and its cause. In some cases the consumer will even give you a possible solution to the issue they have raised.
7. Have an understanding of how the consumer wants the issue resolved. The resolution can be in the form of a replacement, refund, exchange or discount on the price.
8. If the form of resolution is possible, explain the time it will take to process the complaint and what will be needed to make it happen.
9. Explain to the consumer that your company values all feedback from its clients.
10. Follow up with the consumer on to find it if the resolution was to their satisfaction.
The most important part about resolving a consumer complaint is that you will have turned a “bad mouthing advertiser” into a champion of your business and the satisfaction level you have instilled in the consumer.
Remember: “Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you.”