“Don’t keep your customers in the dark!”

 Load shedding is back and very much a part of general conversations around the water cooler, braai or the dinner table, as people come to terms with living and working with regular power cuts, which apparently are here to stay.The way that Eskom has dealt with, or rather hasn’t actually dealt with this situation, got me thinking about planning ahead for problems and making sure you have a strategy in place for dealing with your customers when things go horribly wrong.Rather than sit back and wait until the silo collapses and have to pick up the pieces, make sure you have plans in place to communicate the facts to your customers and deal with any fall out. In an extreme crisis, realise that you will never please everyone, but being up front and honest goes a long way towards keeping the peace and gaining your customers’ respect.There are a few tips to help with a complaining customer and remember to be thankful that they took the time to complain, as many don’t. They just go to your competitor. Don’t we all wish we could go elsewhere for electricity!
  1. Put yourself in your customer’s shoes: Rather than think your customer is being unreasonable by complaining, put yourself in their shoes and realise that your client is upset for a reason and it’s up to you to find out what’s wrong and to fix it.
  2. Listen…really listen: The most important step in this process is to really listen to what your customer is saying. He wants to be heard, and to air his grievances. Also, don’t allow anything to interrupt this conversation and give them your undivided attention.
  3. Show empathy and say sorry: It’s important that you show you understand why your customer is upset and that your body language and voice back up your empathy. It’s all very well to say you understand when actually your body language or responses are showing otherwise. Be sure to apologise, and mean it!
  4. Present the solution: There are two ways to do this. You can either tell your customer how you would like to correct the situation for them, or you can ask what you can do to resolve the problem to their satisfaction.
  5. Action the solution and follow up: Once you’ve agreed on the solution, you will need to action it immediately. Once you are happy the situation has been resolved, make sure you follow up with your customer to ensure they are happy. Whenever you can, exceed their expectations.No one likes to get a complaint or negative publicity, but this does offer you a chance to identify and rectify specific problems with your current systems or product. In most cases it can also help you to develop your relationship with your customer by allowing you to demonstrate that you value their business by taking their concerns seriously and dealing with their complaint.

If you find yourself in the spotlight, albeit for the wrong reasons, take the opportunity to show your business in the best possible light under the circumstances. Remember that complaints or negative publicity can offer a chance for your business to show how decent it is. If you apologise, make amends and explain how you’re going to do better in future, you will find that in many cases the public will actually be very forgiving.

By: Nathalie Schooling