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Your Money: How to Profit from Customer Complaints

Nobody in business welcomes a customer complaint. It usually means taking time out of a busy
day to deal with an angry person. But that's the wrong attitude. You should think of a
customer complaint as three opportunities in one.

An opportunity to get free feedback on something that's not working right in your organization.

An opportunity to convert a disgruntled customer into a loyal customer.

An opportunity to head off negative publicity as the complainer shares his gripe with
others.

How do you turn a complaint to your advantage? Well, like most business operations, it works
best if you have procedures, guidelines, and employee training. Whether you centralize or
decentralize complaint handling depends on the size and nature of your business. But however
you choose to organize the process, you must include several key elements.

1.Employee training. Employees at every level must understand that it is company policy
to take complaints very seriously. The initial response to a complaint should be respectful
and helpful, not defensive or "it's not our fault."

2. Sensitive fact finding. Make sure you really understand the true complaint. This is
perhaps the most important part of the process. By allowing the customer to vent, you'll
defuse a large part of the hostility and ill will. There's nothing worse than having a
complaint and feeling that nobody will listen. Also, this step provides valuable feedback to
pinpoint the exact problem. It may be caused by a badly trained employee or by a glitch
in your procedures. But this is your chance to find out exactly what went wrong.

3. Fixing the problem. Employees must know clearly who has the responsibility and the
authority to fix a problem. You may choose to add a bonus of some kind to compensate
the customer for inconvenience. But at a minimum, you must remedy the customer's
immediate concern.

4. The follow-up. A supervisor or higher-level manager should always follow up with the
customer to apologize again and to make sure that the customer is now satisfied. This is
a key step in turning the customer from "disgruntled" back to "loyal."

Of course, there's a small minority of customers who are chronic complainers. Whatever you do
for them, it will never be enough. But for the vast majority, handling their complaints
appropriately can turn a bad situation to your advantage.

For assistance with any of your business concerns, contact our office. Julie M. Sturgeon is a Certified Public Accountant in Valencia, specializing in individual and business tax issues. She can be reached at 251-6031 or  HYPERLINK mailto:Julie@cpasturgeon.com Julie@cpasturgeon.com .

Read more of Julie Sturgeon's articles by clicking here.