I hope your company doesn’t receive a lot of customer complaints but being prepared is the HR way.
I handled my first company complaint a few days ago, all on my own (yikes!). My boss was on the phone, the store supervisor was out of the office, and this was a major claim. The first rule to company complaints is similar to the rules of dealing with harassment claims. Never sit on the information; you want to get as much detail as you can, as soon as possible. If it can be handled quickly, don’t linger, get it done. The customer wasn’t yelling or shouting, but they were very confident in their statement of what happened. You never know how a customer will react when they are giving a complaint towards the company, but remember, it won’t always be given with yelling, cursing, and antics.
Here are a few tips on how you can keep the customer calm and get all of the information you need for this customer complaint.
Give to Get
Some customers will skate around the situation, and some customers will come right out with it very straightforward. The complaint I was dealing with came from over the phone, when I picked up that line, I had to make sure I stayed calm throughout the entire conversation and get as much information as possible. Starting out with my name and title, I let them know who I am and what department I work for – you can’t be afraid to provide a customer with your information. Just like you, the customer might want to take notes. Ask the customer for their information, including a phone number in case the line drops. Once you have this information, let the customer get out their complaint, more than anything else, they want to know that you are listening to them.
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It is your responsibility to listen to the customer, take detailed notes, and write down questions you may have for when they finish. I try my best not to interrupt what they are saying – this helps me get their entire story and then decipher it. Being in HR, heck even just being human, it can be difficult to believe everything that the customer says, but it is not your job to argue with someone, ever. Get all of the facts from their point of view, inform the customer that you do apologize for any wrongdoing on the company’s part, that you have taken all of their information so you can investigate further. If you can make it right, go ahead and do so, and if not give them a specific day you will follow up with them.
The most important step is to take action once the complaint has been received. Reach out to the employees involved and find out their side of the story. Find out if this is a moment where training needs to occur or if someone needs to be let go from their position altogether. While we don’t want to focus on terminating someone’s employment, how they treat our customers is very important to the type of culture your company accepts in the workplace. I was able to quickly handle the customer complaint I received and made sure the team member involved received training on what to do in the future, in a similar situation. Don’t be quick to give up on that employee unless it is a repeated offense where they’ve been given multiple chances to improve.
Handling your first customer complaint can be very scary, especially when you’re new to HR. It is important to understand that you are the voice not only for yourself but also for the company in this moment. It is not necessary to always take the blame, especially if you don’t know what has happened is true. However, you want to assure the customer that you will do everything possible to get the issue resolved. In this age of social media, a customer bringing a complaint directly to you instead of posting it on their Facebook or Twitter page can be rare, but if you handle it correctly, you can put the company at ease a little. Do what is right, it won’t always be easy especially if your employee was in the wrong, but then again, neither is HR.