Doug Robinson on Transforming Customer Complaints into New Sales

Doug Robinson

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Having been married for over 35 years, I live by the mantra that “I don’t want to be right, I want to be happy.” And I know that when my honey isn’t happy, nobody is happy!

In sales, being right and wrong gets trumped by something else; it’s the perception of the customer that matters most. Keeping the customer satisfied and happy is paramount.

Every week of your career in sales you will be confronted with customer complaints. Some will be assigned to you by management for resolution, and others you will simply stumble on in the course of a normal workday.

The point is that every time you are presented with a customer complaint is a chance to solidify a relationship, and believe it or not, when handled correctly, newly satisfied ex-complaining customers are eager to buy something else from you. 

Remember that everybody on the planet is walking around with an invisible flashing sign on their chest that says, “Make Me Feel Special”, so I want to give you some steps to follow to do just that when resolving complaints, beginning with taking responsibility. That is huge because we all get passed around and told “that’s not my job” when we complain to service companies in our personal lives. 

Start today by adopting the old President Harry Truman slogan; “The buck stops here”.

Use these steps when dealing with unhappy or dissatisfied customers and you will not only put a smile on the customer’s face, but will probably prevent the problem from recurring. The by-product is that in the process you will more than likely see your sales increase, so be careful not to skip or short cut these suggestions at the risk of losing customers. 

Tell them you understand how they feel, without sounding cheesy.

Empathize by citing a similar situation happening in your life and that it makes you mad too.

Listen to their whole story and don’t interrupt. Following their explanation ask questions to better understand the problem and what it will take to satisfy them.

Agree with them if at all possible and never argue or get angry.

Take notes and verbally confirm that everything has been covered and that they have adequately vented, saying all they want.

Be an ambassador for your company and tell the customer you will personally handle the issue.

Don’t blame others or look for a scapegoat. Admit that you (or the company) were wrong and take responsibility for correcting it. 

Don’t pass the buck. “It’s not my job”, “Someone else handles that” or “I thought he said” are responses that are never acceptable to customers.

Respond immediately because people want and expect things to be fixed immediately. 

Find some common ground other than the problem, and try to establish some rapport.

Use humor, if possible, because making people smile or laugh puts them more at ease.

Figure out, communicate, and agree upon a solution. Give customers choices if possible. Confirm it, tell them what you plan to do, and DO IT.

Make a follow-up call after the situation is resolved to insure their satisfaction.

Attempt to secure a testimonial letter by asking the customer to jot down a few sentences about how you resolved the situation. Many times new prospects not only want to hear about how you are going to perform their service, but can they be confident that you will stand by them if things go south. A letter like this is a gift that keeps on giving.

Ask yourself what you can do to prevent this situation from happening again? What have I learned and do I need to make any changes in my sales approach?

If the problem is left unresolved, the customer will surely find your competition, so remember that the customer’s perception is your reality. On the other hand, you will be amazed at the unexpected sales that will come your way when you begin to approach customer “heartburn” in this fashion. 

You will find that after resolving customer concerns you will become “their new best friend”, and will be able to discuss and sell additional services to them often. Don’t forget that people buy from people they like and trust and everybody likes and trusts those who are our advocates when things don’t go right.

You will see first hand that after being the point man in straightening out a problem for a frustrated customer, referrals with introductions to close friends that seemed impossible to obtain before; will magically begin to appear for the asking.

Additionally, when you’ve obtained a customer service referral letter, along with permission to use it, future skeptical prospects will begin to give you the benefit of the doubt. This will mean that you will close a higher percentage of those proposals too.

Make a determination today that you will no longer avoid and deflect customer complaints, realizing that the extra few minutes of time and effort needed to resolve problems, will come back to you ten fold in additional sales and referrals. And maybe the best part is that you will feel better about yourself because you are now part of the solution and no longer part of the problem. 

For additional customer service and sales help in dealing with day-to-day business concerns, why not subscribe to my FREE newsletter, Selling Point While you’re at it, take a look at the videos on my website;