December 15, 2010
A friend, David Horton, once said, "Some get paid to be critics. Everyone else does it for free."
We, like any organization or business, get our share of criticisms and complaints. How do we deal with it? Here are my guidelines.
1. Respond. I try to answer promptly every single complaint that crosses my desk. Don't ignore them. Even if you can't correct a situation, a customer can gain a lot of satisfaction knowing you at least listened.
If the situation is complicated and requires time to sort it out, send a "holding" letter saying you received the complaint, are working on it and will try to get back with a full answer as soon as possible.
But if you find your emotions rising as you work on a response, stop. Wait a day. And certainly get someone else to read your answer before you send it off.
2. Restate the complaint. Start by showing that you have some level of understanding about what the concern is. This only need be a sentence or two. You want to honestly communicate some level of engagement with the criticism.
3. Be honest. If you made a mistake, say so and apologize straightforwardly.
4. Don't go into too much detail. Trying to explain why your company does things the way it does can come off as defensive, no matter how objective you try to be. If appropriate, give a brief summary of company policy or practice, but don't try to convince or persuade--especially if you are on the phone.
5. Suggest a solution. Seek a way to offer compensation, such as a full refund or replacement. Consider offering an additional complimentary service or product.
I'm sure you've had your share of excellent and horrible responses to your complaints, and I'd be interested to hear some of those.
Ultimately, answering a criticism comes down to acting and sounding like a human being, and remembering how you'd like someone to respond to your complaint.