Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Handling complainers

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     You know them. They are the complainers. They complain about you, your business, and just about anything else that strikes their fancy.

     It seems that some people exist to complain. Their whole lives are devoted to finding the next thing to complain about. It borders on a mental disorder. 

     When a complainer gets you in the cross hairs, it's time to go into action. You need to summon all your abilities to defuse the situation. You need to turn the complainer into an advocate who will spread good words about you and your operation.

     Example: Bill runs a restaurant and is active on social media. When a customer posted a negative review of the restaurant on Facebook, Bill went into action. He commented on the complaint on Facebook as well. "We love complaints. It tells us how we're doing. And we use every complaint to improve and provide better meals, better service, and better lives for the people who visit us." It worked. The person who complained returned to the restaurant and identified herself. Bill gave her a free lunch. 

     Social media provides people with opportunities to comment on--everything. Suddenly, everyone is an expert. They get carried away in the moment. When called to account in a non-combative way, sometimes you can turn them around.     

     Example: Carole runs a small boutique offering women's accessories, purses and caps, jewelry and scarves, and fun things that delight her female clientele. Many of the items she makes herself, using discarded blue jeans and denim. She cuts up the materials she finds at thrift shops and re-fashions it into bags and purses, even pins and belts. Shoppers love the big bags she creates, leaving the original pockets on the sides of the bags. Carole hates to see some shoppers arrive and begin complaining that the shop is too small, or that this bag is too big, or that denim is not appropriate for this hat. And, "Where are the tee shirts?" Carole took the initiative one afternoon, complimenting a complainer on the choice and design of coat she was wearing. This launched a conversation about the shopper, and with attention turned away from the shop and to the shopper, the woman relaxed into selecting several items for purchase.

     In business, you meet the general public in person or on line. Complainers are everywhere, and you must meet them and turn them around. Keep it positive. 

     Example: Joseph does landscaping for several regular customers. One of his workers reversed a planting--setting out petunia plants where the marigolds were meant to be, and vice-versa. The customer called to complain. Joseph went to the home, apologized, and reversed the plantings. A simple mistake, a simple solution, and a happy customer. 

     Never leave a complainer to their own devices. It will only get worse. You must address the situation and turn a complainer into a satisfied customer. Your future depends on it. 

     Success in business means taking care of business. And that means you must keep your own personal feelings and judgments to yourself. Handling complainers will help you grow and expand.