Where's the Beef?

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If you have been in business for more than 10 minutes chances are good you have received a complaint (beef) from a client. You probably reacted in one of two ways. Either you felt hurt or you felt angry. In either case you need to deal with an upset client. It's critical though, however you feel, that you take action. Immediately. Let the emotion of the moment settle in; I'm happy that you feel anything at all. It means you care. The problem is, often times, we let our emotions get the better of us and we either play the part of "woe is me" if we internalize the problem. Or we play the part of the Incredible Hulk, ready to blow our stack.

Here is my suggestion, if you receive the complaint via phone call, do your absolute best to collect just the facts as your client sees them, empathize with your client and tell them you will check out all the facts and respond very quickly to them. Do not, repeat, do not make a promise you cannot keep (this will add more fuel to their fire). And above all do not delay in following up. Create a level of expectation for your client so they know you have steps in place to deal with their complaint.

Your dialogue can be as simple as this:

Client - "You said I would have my shipment on Friday and my event was Saturday, I just got the shipment today (Monday) and no one answered my urgent call over the weekend. You ruined my table decorations."

You - "I hear your frustration Mrs. Smith. And I understand how important the Friday delivery was to you. Would you be ok if I investigate this to find out exactly what happened? Internally, we have an emergency line set up, I'm going to find out why no one answered your call over the weekend and I am going to speak with my shipping department and reach out to UPS as well to see why this happened. If I don't get a call back from UPS today, I will at least call you to tell you where we stand. I appreciate you giving me a chance to find out what happened. I know that we can't possibly re-do your important event on Saturday, but we both want answers and we will get them."

If your client can hear that you care, you have already taken a big step in resolving their beef with your company. When you put yourself in your customer's position, you will easily be able to deflate any hurt or anger you may feel. Channel all of your energy into resolving the problem and getting back to the client.

You must temper any instinct you have to be negative towards the client. At each step during the investigation, you must check the "temperature" of the beef with your client. What you are hoping to do is determine exactly what is required so that the client feels satisfied with your problem resolution. When in doubt ask. Is your client looking for a full refund, a partial refund, a credit for future business, a discount in the future.

Your goal is to retain your client; that is always the bottom line. Resolve their complaint to their satisfaction, not just yours, and you will retain a client, while at the same time, strengthening your connection. Mistakes are bound to happen, it's how we handle the beef that is so important.