When you run your own business, you have to deal with people and other businesses, otherwise you will have no income. And no income means no business. Of course, not everyone that you come across will be 100% happy with your services, that’s a fact of life. The sooner you accept that the better you will be.
There’s no way to avoid all criticism in business. Even if you run a really tight ship and do everything seemingly right, there is always going to be mistakes made, things overlooked and glitches in technology. Criticism is part of running a business. But there are definite ways you can work from a place of strength to minimise the amount of complaints you get. Here’s a short list to get you started.
What? Right out of the gate you want me to encourage feedback?
Yes! By offering customers several ways to contact you directly, you encourage them to talk to you rather than to smear your good name all over social media. And that can do way more damage so best to avoid that by talking directly. This is why large companies these days have whole teams who cover their social media and try to nip in the bud any complaints.
You also demonstrate that you aren’t scared of feedback because you know you have outstanding products and services. That confidence shines through–customers can see it and they respond positively to it. It also shows your customers that you truly value their opinions.
Most reasonable people with a legitimate complaint just want to be heard and have things made right. They don’t want to get irate and badmouth your company on review sites. So encourage feedback by letting them know where they can reach you to personally see to problems that may come up.
These outlets should include email, phone and contact forms on your website. By offering several ways to be contactable, you are letting the customer choose the platform that suits them. Imagine if you are only contactable on, for example, Twitter, but they don’t have an account. They will be even more upset that they have to go through the rigmarole of creating and account and opening their email address to yet another company just so they can let you know what is wrong. By giving them options, and simple ones are best, one of them should be suitable for them.
Test Before Release
Having checks and balances in place to double and triple check your products and processes before release is just good business sense. Not doing so is asking for trouble. Put every step of the product or service release through its paces before that big launch.
Don’t stop there. Especially if you are trusting technology to deliver marketing materials, deal with payments and manage orders, you need to have a schedule in place for re-testing each step to make sure that you provide your customers with a smooth purchasing system that gives them nothing to complain about.
I have come across several software releases from companies that are released too soon. They have little flaws in the processes, little or no instructions on how to use, and support desks that take 24 hours to respond.
Don’t be like this – make sure your product is tested thoroughly before release, and when you do hear of issues, respond quickly. Even if you can’t solve the issue within a couple of hours, let the person know that you are treating it seriously and looking at the flaw. That way they will at least be happy in the knowledge that they are being treated seriously.
Own The Problem
Mistakes are bound to happen – they happen in all businesses, large or small. So when they do, don’t play the blame game…it makes you look bad. If it was your mistake or an employee’s mistake that caused the issue, own up to it. There’s no need to go into great detail or go overboard apologising. Just find the problem, fix it and then let the customer know that it’s no longer an issue.
Of course things won’t always be an in-house mistake. But usually, people don’t care who screwed up…they just want the situation made right. In my most recent day job I saw this all the time. Machines failed, people forgot to do one step, and so on. But admitting there was an issue, and finding out what the worst case scenario was for the customer, went a long way to alleviating the problem.
People are much more forgiving than you might think, and just owning up to the mistake reminds them that there are humans, and ones with integrity at that, running your company. This may actually strengthen your position, as you are seen to be taking responsibility.
So don’t hide problems, hoping that they will go away. Take responsibility for your business, admit you had an issue but that you will sort it out, and make sure that the customer is given excellent personal service from now on.