Complaints – love them or loathe them? Irate customers or moaning minnies in your team? There will always be those people you just dread having to deal with. Whether they are justified or not, whether they are your customers or your staff – you still have to deal with them. Attitudes to complaints can reveal a great deal about certain individuals and organisations as a whole. How proactive are you in searching for and responding to complaints?
Whatever our view of complaints, there will always be those issues and concerns about which we are dissatisfied. People may grumble and moan about their grievances, but it is only when they actively complain that there is an opportunity to do something about it.
Here is a deceptively simple structure that can turn around a possibly confrontational situation. The important thing is to stick to the structure and do it well – not half-heartedly.
E – Explain clearly and concisely state what outcome you are aiming to achieve; in an assertive manner that shows genuine interest in finding a mutually beneficial result. You want your customer/staff member to go away happy, which does not necessarily mean giving them what they want.
Q – Question using open and probing questions to fully uncover their issues and concerns. Not just the problem, but how it affects them. The key here is to spend longer establishing the real underlying issues not just the easiest ones or the first things that comes up.
U – Understand show real empathy with their point of view, use ‘I appreciate’ and ‘I would feel/think that way too’. There is a difference between empathy and sympathy – make sure you know which is which and use it sincerely.
I – Influence their feelings/thinking by offering solutions and making suggestions that help them move nearer towards the desired outcome. Get them involved in identifying solutions and manage their expectations with thought and consideration.
P – Plan with their agreement what actions need to be taken, the timescales involved and who owns the actions. The action plan may not resolve the issue completely on this occasion but should show how improvement is to be achieved.
EQUIP is easy to remember and particularly effective way to handle complaints as long as you remember to ask the questions before suggesting the solution.