A couple of weeks ago I was wondering what to buy my brother-in-law for his 40th Birthday. I try, where possible, to use local independent businesses for gifts, so decided to try a local hamper company. They’d been tagging me in Twitter posts for ages and I’d wanted to give them a try. Given ‘big bro’ was into his food & wine, it seemed like the perfect match.
The website selection of hampers didn’t have exactly the mix I was looking for, so I called the company to see if a bespoke hamper was possible. The shop assistant I spoke with was very helpful, picking out a selection of local produce for me while I was on the phone with her. I explained that the hamper was for a special occasion, dictated a card to include and arranged for delivery to be made in the next couple of days. A good experience up to that point.
A few days later, after said Birthday, my sister called to let me know the hamper had arrived with a breakage that had spoilt some of the other goods – which is fine, these things happen. Unfortunately, though, when my sister called the company to inform them, things got worse from there. The lady that answered the phone offered no apology, got all flustered then handed the phone off to someone else without saying that she was doing so, or why. The next person to take the call still offered no real apology, though did offer to send out a replacement, to be delivered in the next day or two. Fine, my sister and her husband would then be away for a week after that, so the parcel would deliver in time if still missing the special day.
Two full days later, the hamper had still not arrived. I called the company myself to raise a complaint about the handling of the matter and was met with a defensive and still rather unapologetic response – I only managed to finally get an apology when I later spoke with the Store Manager and raised that an apology was never offered.
The whole feeling was that they were not at all comfortable managing complaints and just wanted to get the whole matter over with and off the phone.
I’ve since ordered a replacement gift from Amazon, with next day delivery and suitably packed so nothing was damaged in transit. A win for Amazon, a loss for local business.
So why, when local businesses are in a constant battle with the big boys, do some people STILL not understand how to do customer service?!
If you handle a customer complaint well, you can turn the whole situation around and gain the most loyal of customers, willing to preach to anyone that’ll listen about how brilliant you were and how you went the extra mile. That’s a downright stupid opportunity to miss.
So, here are my do’s and don’ts of complaint handling:
DO offer a sincere apology – even if it wasn’t directly your fault, a simple act of empathy goes a long way
DON’T be defensive – we don’t care who’s fault it was, we just want the problem fixed
DO say you’ll call them back if you don’t know how to rectify the matter immediately, people won’t mind waiting for the best solution
DON’T blame others – again, not a finger pointing issue. If someone was obviously to blame, then say feedback will be taken on board and passed on to the right person, to prevent such a complaint from reoccurrence.
DO focus on the solution
DON’T get flustered – it’s never personal (unless you were rude to them, in which case apologise you idiot!)
DO go above and beyond if possible, that extra mile will go a long way in getting repeat business and recommendations
DON’T be dismissive, just feeling like you’ve been heard can sometimes be enough to calm the situation
DO take notes and check name spellings – when the hamper company posted my refund receipt they hadn’t even bothered checking the spelling of my name. Summed up their entire attitude in one image