How to Handle Customer Complaints in the Studio and Online

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Sooner or later, it happens to everyone: a disgruntled customer lets loose on Yelp or Facebook.

Before you know it, your fingers are flying across the keyboard, crafting a scathing response you’re certain will put this ingrate in their place. Or maybe the complaint is in person, and before you know it, you’re yelling at the complainer in front of a crowd — a crowd you’re certain will be amused and delighted by your response. Forget studio management software. You’ve got it under control. Or do you?

Customer Complaints: A Discrepancy in Perceptions

An owner can quickly turn a minor complaint into a major public relations nightmare. The problem is a discrepancy in perceptions. You see the complaint as obviously wrong, the customer as clearly a liar, and your scathing response as a witty rejoinder that puts the customer in their place.

That’s not how other customers see it. Everyone knows what it’s like to have a conflict with a business. And most people, unfortunately, also know what it’s like to deal with an unhinged business owner who won’t make it right. When you respond with anger, customers see you that way. They don’t see your wit or view the complainer as a liar. They see you as a jerk. They don’t have the emotional attachment to your studio that you do. They don’t know all the hard work you’ve put in and they don’t know the full story.

So they’ll judge the incident based on how you respond. Do you respond defensively, arguing with the customer? That lends credence to claims that you treated a customer unfairly. But if you’re gracious and apologetic, this makes you look good. Put simply, if you want to make the customer look like the crazy one, you have to be the bigger person. Apologize. Take responsibility whether you want to or not. It’s the only way to quickly move on.

Why You Must Address Complaints

If you’ve never gotten a customer complaint before, your first impulse might be denial. You might even refuse to read it, fearful of what it might say. Don’t stick your head in the sand. You must address each and every complaint individually. Otherwise, the complainer becomes the final word on the issue.

You cannot blindly trust that people will see a complaint about the lie it is, or that they’ll understand that every business makes mistakes. Customers care about complaints and future customers use them to decide which business to patronize. You want to make sure that every customer feels like their voice will be heard, and their complaints will be understood and handled appropriately. That’s all customers really want — a chance to be heard.

A Chance to Make Things Right

Responding to a customer complaint isn’t about arguing with them. That almost always backfires. It’s about showing, not telling. If you can turn an angry customer into a happy one, that customer will be much more loyal, because it’s rare in today’s climate for studios to promptly fix their mistakes.

What if you can’t turn an angry customer into a happy one? The effort is still a worthwhile one. Because your true audience is the people who witness your response to the complaint — particularly if the complaint is online. Make sure bystanders witness you being compassionate, kind, and fair. They’ll remember your response, and it will color their perceptions of what happened.

It’s better to be a business owner who responds to complaints in a way that works than a business owner who never gets a complaint. Let people see you owning up to your mistakes and fixing them. It may convince them the mistakes never happened in the first place.

The Components of an Excellent Complaint Response

Just because something feels good doesn’t mean it’s good for your business. Repeat this to yourself like a mantra until you believe it. Emotional responses do your business no favors. Instead, you need to adopt a strategic tack. Here are the cardinal rules of responding to customer complaints:

  • Don’t be impulsive. A negative comment can feel a lot worse than it actually is. What seems like a full-scale attack on your business might be a gentle nudge to try something new. So take a few deep breaths and don’t respond immediately. Give it a few hours, and consider asking an outsider whom you trust what they think. Things might not be as bad as they seem. Even if they are, an emotional response helps nothing and no one.
  • Know that other people are watching. Consider how you want to be perceived before you answer back.
  • Keep your response short and polite. Don’t attack the customer, and don’t speak to their situation in long and boring detail. “We want every customer to be happy, and we’re going to do what we can to help you become happy” can work wonders. Particularly if the customer is unreasonable, this makes you look much more reasonable by comparison.
  • Apologize. You don’t have to admit fault to apologize, but a genuine apology will go far. Forget “I’m sorry if…” It’s disingenuous and doesn’t take responsibility. “I’m so sorry we didn’t meet your expectations. Thank you for taking the time to give us this feedback so we can do better. Customers like you help make our business great” is perfect. Then offer an incentive and tell the customer you’ll personally get in touch with them.
  • Ask the customer to change their feedback if they’ve left a negative review and are happy with your response. Fixing a problem makes you look better than never having a problem in the first place. If the customer is now happy, they’ll be all too happy to fix their negative review.
  • Let it go. If you can’t resolve the complaint, don’t get embroiled in a long back-and-forth. Leave your response up, and then move on. Someone who continually badgers you looks unreasonable, and you waste your time endlessly debating the facts. Resist the temptation.  

Never Let Another Complaint Go

With The Studio Director, you can monitor various sites for customer complaints and address them in real-time. Don’t let them disappear into the ether, visible to everyone but you. The golden rule of responding to customer complaints is to do so quickly and respectfully. That’s precisely what the Studio Director empowers.

Our cloud-based approach offers much more than just a rapid response. We offer a free 30-day trial, as well as comprehensive support and friendly customer service. We’re ready to help you today.

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