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Responding to customer complaints is an art, opportunity

Friday, November 16, 2012 - 12:31
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It's the notice no shop owner likes to see: An alert from your customer service indexing (CSI) provider letting you know a customer voiced a complaint. What's your best course of action to respond?

At my business, I would begin by calling the customer to apologize that we didn't meet their expectations. That wording was chosen very carefully. I never apologize for them being unhappy.

Mike Anderson

In business, your job is to make someone satisfied, not happy. If that customer is going through a divorce, their kids are acting up, they lost their job or had a death in the family, they aren't likely to be happy. Remember, they just had a car accident. Your goal is to make them satisfied.

By apologizing for not meeting their expectations, you also are not admitting guilt or agreeing to any particular remedy.

My next question to the customer: What can I do to re-earn your trust? Keep in mind that the most important thing consumers look for when they choose a shop is someone they can trust. You may have lost their trust if they are complaining about their experience. So, I suggest simply asking, "Mr. Jones, what can I do to re-earn your trust?" I have found most of the time what Mr. Jones asks for is pretty reasonable.

I also suggest almost never agreeing to a particular resolution until you have seen the vehicle in person.

We used a simple "complaint resolution" form at my business to help us track complaints and ensure we followed up. Send me an email for a copy of the form. Essentially it asks for the customer and vehicle information, the repair order number and the technicians that worked on the vehicle. The form has a place to explain the basics of the complaint, as well as a place to track what contact was made with the customer and what actions are being taken.

The person filling out the form has to answer if the complaint was resolved to the customer's expectations, and if the customer would refer others to us in the future.

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