A Field Service Team’s Guide to Understanding Customer Criticism

  • February 18, 2017
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Growing pains are part of…growing. As you scale your business, it becomes more challenging to maintain exemplary customer service. Even with the best policies and training, the old adage that “you can’t please everyone” is in play, and you might find yourself faced with some constructive (and even public, on social media) criticism from a customer.

It’s hard to see this as an opportunity at first. But being able to decode your customer’s criticism will help you right your missteps faster and more accurately, and create a chance to show customers that your service goes way beyond the settled bill. It also gives you an opportunity to make some detailed customer notes in your job scheduling software, or training for your team, making for a better experience the next time around. Here are a few ways to understand and respond to customer criticism.

Respond Promptly

Good relationships don’t let issues fester. If a customer is calling you or writing on your Facebook wall right after their service is done, you are in the best position to right their upset.

Instead of feeling like they are ungrateful or fussy (well, you can feel that for a few seconds), understand that the thing they really, really want is to be happy with the service they paid for. They are calling you because they want you to make them happy. And you can probably help them with that! But first you have to pick up the phone, respond to that tweet, or answer that snippy email. Do it, and do it right away. Being prompt signals to your customer that they are on your mind, and that you take their issue seriously.

Admit Mistakes

Not every complaint will be your fault. But when your team, your business, or your service haven’t stepped up, acknowledge that you’ve fallen short and ask how you can repair the damage done. No excuses, no explanations: you haven’t done the job expected of you, and it’s on you to make that right.

Most customers will appreciate that you respect their dissatisfaction–and respect on all sides is what makes a customer complaint a level playing field.

Take a look at this video from FedEx, after a video surfaced on the web of one of their delivery drivers mistreating a package (throwing it over a fence).

Stay on the Ball

Knowing about customer feedback, good or bad, as early as possible goes a long way to toward showing customers that you care. To avoid letting negative feedback go unaddressed on the web without a thoughtful response from you, set up Google Alerts for your company name. Your inbox will receive a digest of new publish mentions of your business. If you find positive feedback, share that with your team too; a little positive reinforcement goes a long way.

Keep a close eye on your Facebook page, and listen in on Twitter, even if you don’t have an account there. Try a Twitter search for your company name, and see if anything comes up.

You might also want to keep an eye on your listing on Yelp, or any other review sites that are in use in your area.

Listen Carefully

Every customer will react differently to a similar problem, and their reaction will tell you how best to respond to their issue. If a person calls or writes a note that says they “didn’t feel they got good value” from your service, follow up and ask how you could make their experience better.

If it’s within your power to provide, send your team back and give the customer what they need to feel satisfied. If a customer calls to say that your staff was rude to them, reassure her that you will take care of the issue, and offer her a complimentary check-up with a different employee. Complaints aren’t just meant to be heard. They are meant to be acted upon.

The “Fix” Isn’t Just for the Customer

Your reputation stands to benefit, but so does your workforce. If responding positively and promptly to customer complaints is part of your company’s DNA, your staff will reflect that. Broadcast to your team that your are proud to be a business that rights their wrongs and takes their customers seriously. It will make your employees better at their jobs, give your business a reputation for being stand-up, and cement you as a people-oriented leader.

Know When to Let it Go

Every once and awhile you’ll bump up against a customer that you just can’t make happy. It doesn’t matter if you reinstall the moon for them, they have some word about it. You know what? Some people just want to be mad. If you come across a person like this, who in spite of your very best effort is still yelling at your admin people and lighting you up on social, simply explain that you’ve done your best to solve their issue, and that at this time it seems there can be no recourse. It’s really as simple as that.

You will get customer complaints. When you make your business well-known for how well you handle those issues, you’re guaranteed to experience far fewer of them.

Want specific tips about how to handle yourself on review sites like Yelp? Read our post about the good way to deal with a bad customer review.