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A serious problem on your part can easily cost you a customer, and a systemic problem can cost you many customers. A relentless commitment to top-notch customer service, on the other hand, can protect your existing customer base and help you build it further. Watch out for these 10 common customer complaints and keep these handy solutions in mind:You promised you’d get this fixed, but the problem just drags on and on. Problems that don’t get solved or complaints that don’t get addressed are deadly. Appoint a single individual (maybe yourself) to monitor and solve customer complaints. Empower this individual with the money and authority to get things fixed right away.I keep getting shuffled from one person to the next. Especially troublesome in larger organizations, the “complaint shuffle” usually results from insufficient accountability and a weak customerservice culture. Institute a simple standard operating procedure: Anyone who receives a customer complaint should follow up on it, from start to finish. Any “shuffling” should be strictly internal.You just don’t seem to care. This problem — perceived lack of empathy — may well be the No. 1 customer-service complaint today. Probable results, depending on the issue: dissatisfaction, wasted time and money, litigation, loss of profit and reputation. A few simple steps might keep the problem from deteriorating. Genuinely apologize. Get the facts. Thank the customer for letting you know that something’s wrong. Outline the steps you’ll take to fix the problem and follow up promptly.Nobody tells me a darn thing. If you’re dealing with particularly thorny or complex problems, customers expect progress reports. OK, it’s inconvenient, but delays will drive customers away from you. Place a note in your tickler to call customers back with news at periodic and appropriate intervals. Given the fast pace of the rental business, this may seem at first like it doesn’t fit this industry very well. However, more and more rental companies are increasing the retail side of their business, where an ordered item might be backlogged and generate customer complaints. There is also that customer who’s waiting for word about an item in your inventory that you said you would tell him about when it came time to dispose of the asset.That guy was just plain rude. Rudeness comes in many forms and fashions — an indifferent tone of voice, a “bureaucratic” demeanor, a pompous or snobbish approach to the problem. Rudeness and discourtesy have the potential to escalate a minor customer-service problem into a disaster. Intervene and fast. And get some heavy-duty customer-service training in place.That guy had no idea what to do. He may have been well-meaning, but when push came to shove, he didn’t know how to solve the problem. This may not send the customer out the door, but it certainly can cause irritation. Establish written principles and guidelines for handling customer-service problems. Then be sure all your people understand them.I explained what I needed, but she just doesn’t understand what I want. Here, the customer is probably trying to negotiate but is being rebuffed. The guy or gal on the other end of the conversation either truly doesn’t understand what the customer is talking about, or can’t (or maybe won’t) help. Over the long term, training in customer negotiation will be helpful. In the short term, good old-fashioned non-directive communication (repeating the customer’s complaint and affirming its legitimacy) can be the first step toward a solution.When I rented this thing, no one told me that I would need all of this other stuff. Don’t ignore anything that may cost your customer time or money later on. Complaints are sure to follow. Reinvent your procedure on how to counsel the customer on the project and analyze his or her probable needs, now and further on. Make sure the customer has the whole picture in mind and knows what he or she will need, and when and why.I talked with John (or Mary or Paul) and let me tell you, he (or she) was no help whatsoever. That counterperson represents your company. If the response to a complaint is awkward or
unaccommodating, you’ll simply raise your customer’s ire. It’s time to begin rewarding employees for doing a great job with customer service. Public recognition, bonuses and individual praise all promote this customer-service philosophy. So does the occasional coaching session for employees who don’t quite get it.Your competition down the street can do this for me. When you hear this, it’s possible that you’re behind the curve. And when the word gets out, any customer who can get better service down the street may just do that. So find out what your competition is offering. Become a mystery shopper if need be. And then make an honest assessment. If you are indeed at a competitive disadvantage, it may be time to add the service.