Many start-ups are quick to go online and launch their products or services. The problem with this is that a successful launch that brings new customers can also bring multiple challenges.
One of the challenges is how to handle customers’ grievances when things go wrong. The key is to look at online complaints as an opportunity rather than a potential PR disaster and have a robust plan of action in place. A good response to a complaint can actually convert an angry and upset customer into a loyal, raving fan.
In this article I share some ways start-ups (as well as established businesses) can successfully deal with online customer complaints.
1. Make It Easy for Your Customers to Contact You
This is a basic but essential first step in handling online complaints. Make sure your company’s contact details are clearly stated and easy to find on your website. Provide your email address as well as a contact form. If possible give your phone number and have someone available to answer rather than a recorded voice mail.
Live chat is also worth considering as it enables problems to be resolved while customers are online. It also allows you to build a friendly rapport with your newly acquired customer base.
Finally, don’t forget to include your snail-mail address on your website. Serious complainers often like to “put things in writing”!
2. Be Aware of What Your Customers Are Saying About You Online
In addition to the above feedback mechanisms, it’s important to know what your customers are saying about you on the social web.
Acknowledge and reply to complaints made about you on twitter, Facebook, industry forums and any website that your customers use to air their grievances. If you are in the hospitality business, keep an eye on Yelp, TripAdvisor and Zagat.
A word of warning: not all negative comments are worthy of engagement. If it’s an obvious rude and outrageous attack by someone seeking confrontation, you have every right to not to be drawn in.
3. Act Quickly to Avoid Damage to Your Online Reputation
Speed is of the essence when dealing with an upset customers. While happy customers share their experience with 5 people, the average customer who a complains tells 9 to 10 people. You need to act fast to stop the negativity spreading online.
4. Show Empathy and Understanding by Adopting the Personal Touch
Whilst responding quickly is important, Showing empathy and communicating in a friendly manner are just as important. Always use your real name and include a photo in your online profile if possible.
5. Identify the Root Cause and Find a Permanent Solution
Handling complaints effectively doesn’t stop when you’ve satisfied one customer. You need to treat the cause. If one customer has had a poor experience, it’s likely that another one will face the same issue down the line.
Meet with people in your organization and share the insights you’ve gained from the customer. Share these findings company-wide and gather ideas on how to find a permanent fix.
If that’s not possible right away, record your response on a knowledge base or FAQ page. This will help employees handle the issue and customers will have a better idea of what to expect.
Dealing with online complaints is not rocket science, it just takes planning, empathy, teamwork and an attitude that encourages continuous improvement.