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How to Satisfy the Customer Who Always Complains

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It seems like there are always those customers who have complaint after complaint and eat up you and your service techs’ time. While you want to do everything in your power to keep the customer happy, you are probably wondering if there are any limits to that policy. Or, perhaps you just want to know how to satisfy the difficult customer so she stops complaining incessantly.

Try to Figure Out the Real Complaint
If a customer is calling and complaining over and over again, the complaint may run deeper than just aggravation over a filter inserted a bit crooked or a late service call. Perhaps the customer doesn’t feel appreciated or understood but can’t quite put her finger on what is aggravating her so much.

  • Ask if there is anything else that the customer is unsatisfied over. This simple question can open up lines of communication.
  • Express your regret over the initial complaint and give specific steps you will take to rectify the issue.
  • Record all complaints from customers, so you can look for patterns over time.

Take the time to ask the customer what an acceptable solution is in her mind. What you think will fix the problem may not completely fix it. Most people are reasonable and will request a solution that satisfies both parties. If the request is unreasonable, at least you’ll have a starting point from which to rectify the situation.

Deciding If the Person Is a Lifestyle Chronic Complainer
Psychology Today mentions that there are some people in this world who simply see things from the worst perspective at all times and are bound and determined to make sure everyone around them sees things this way, too. Some of the survival tips offered include:

  • Don’t try to convince the chronic complainer that things aren’t that bad. Their perspective is that things are truly that bad if not worse. Instead, just listen.
  • PT also advises offering genuine sympathy but then moving immediately into the solution for the problem. Example: “I’m sorry this happened to you. You must be so frustrated. Here is what we can do to fix the problem for you…”
    Understand that just because someone complains about everything all the time does not mean they don’t have a valid complaint about your service.

Figure Out How Much the Complaints Are Costing You
More than likely, you only have a couple of customers who are habitual complainers. While this is a problem that most people in service industries face, it is also not a problem out of the vast majority of customers in your service area. Tracking costs for the few customers who complain habitually should be fairly simple.

  • Track time spent on the phone with these habitual complainers.
  • Track time spent returning on service calls without a fee collected.
  • Track cost of replaced equipment that might not have truly needed replaced. Of course, if something really did need to be repaired or fixed in some way, you should not log that time against the customer.

Add up the cost of that time based on everything from product cost, fuel costs for return service calls, to hourly wages. You should be able to quickly see if those customers are costing your company more than they are paying you.

Severing Ties with Unprofitable Customers
According to the Harvard Business Review’s study of Sprint’s firing of about 1,000 of their customers, there is a right and a wrong way to let unprofitable customers go. The company had been tracking how often a certain set of customers called in to complain, even after issues had been addressed, and the cost of continually offering customer support to those customers. Ultimately, it was costing the company money to keep them as customers.

This may be the case with some of your most difficult customers and it may be time to sever ties (also called customer divestment). However, HBR cautions to look at all aspects of severing ties before doing so, as it can have a ripple impact on your business. For example, if you inform Mrs. Smith that you can no longer offer a service package to her at this time, she may grow angry and tell her neighbors, family and friends, who might also cancel their contracts with you. Perhaps her uncle owns a big corporation who has a contract with you. You may have no way of knowing just how far the ripples will reach. Because of this, be very cautious before participating in customer divestment.

Still, if the customer is impossible to please, your staff is ready to pull out their hair or quit over the constant phone calls, and the person is costing your company money, you may have no choice but to fire them as a customer. If you find you have no other choice but to let a customer go, do so as nicely and professionally as possible.

Lori Soard

Posted In: Customer Service, Management

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