Every business will receive complaints from customers, some genuine and some not. How you handle your complaints is key to your business success and if done properly can set you apart from your competition.

One of the best ways in dealing with customer complaints is by having a comprehensive complaints procedure, in writing, that your staff is empowered and trained to handle.

Smaller businesses may want to involve the owner in the complaint management process, but if the problem is a simple exchange or return, all members of staff should be trained to handle it.

If the complaint, however, is complex, don’t try to solve it on the sales floor. Take the customer to an office or somewhere that offers privacy. This is your opportunity to fix the problem. Listen first, then ask questions and try and get the facts straight.

While you are having this conversation with the customer, repeat back to them what they are saying. You want to be clear about all aspects of the complaint and you need to align them with your policies, any manufacturer’s warranty and of course Bermuda law. Write down the main points of the grievance or even better, develop a complaint form that will allow you to get essential information and help speed up the process.

 If you can’t immediately resolve the complaint, give the customer a realistic time-line as to when you will contact them.

Negotiate

Again, if the complaint is complex and requires quite a bit of back and forth with the customer keep a record of all visits and telephone calls, including who was present and what was discussed.

Sometimes businesses will have to negotiate and compromise on a solution. This does not mean that you let the customer take advantage of you or that you give the shop away. However, recognize that it costs about 6 times more to get a new customer than it costs to keep an existing one.

Once you have made a decision on how you will resolve a customer complaint arrange to meet with the customer and include key staff if necessary. Take minutes that can be typed up after the meeting and get both parties to sign off on them.

If all goes well and you are able to agree to a solution, put it in writing. Even after you have met and discussed the solution with the customer, follow up with a letter so that both parties have a written record of events and the resolution.

On the other hand if after you have met with the customer, and no resolution can be reached or the proposed resolution is not accepted, the customer has a few options. They can make an appointment with a higher authority within the company (if they are not already dealing with that person), they can contact Consumer Affairs or they can take the matter to court.

For more information on handling complaints, visit our website: www.ca.gov.bm.

Honey Adams is the Education Officer for Consumer Affairs.