How do you actually deal with customers complaints? One of the age-old golden phrases of retail is that the customer is always right, even if they really are wrong. Your customers are the only reason that you’re in business in the first place, so it’s important to listen to them when they have a complaint. And those complaints happen in all shapes and sizes in every single business.
Dealing with any customer complaint takes a certain amount of tact and sensitivity, ignoring the bad that comes along with the good can not only hurt your bottom business line but also tarnish your reputation. The way you manage a negative situation may mean the difference between not only losing a sale but losing a customer in the future.
Be Professional And Keep Your Own Emotions To A Bare Minimum
Of course, it’s normal to feel a little bit defensive when you get Customers Complaints about your products or services, you ideally want to enact your business retailer professionalism when handling customer complaints. Do not take offence to what they’re saying and further escalate the situation. The customer has something that they have to get rid of (we’re talking about their feelings here!) —they’re frustrated, they’re disappointed—and they’re often emotional. Allow them to express their feelings, then move forward calmly with a solution.
Fully Understand Customers Complaints By Researching All The Facts
You will have to do your own fact-finding mission here, a little like some of the forensics TV series you may come across. Well, that’s a slight exaggeration maybe not quite as forensic detailed when researching all the facts of your customer complaint, but you get the gist of the idea. Apply a sensible methodical oriented approach, fact-checking your current records and accurately assessing your customer supplied complaint information. As is said there are two sides to each story – and thus for each and every Customers Complaints – so make sure you have all the facts before you come forward with a resolution.
Either it is a genuine complaint or a customer might be trying to get something for free and exaggerating the negative interaction they’ve had in your store or with your product, or maybe they’re genuinely confused about why they received the product they’ve received if the product does not look as expected.
There are many ways communication problems can come into play, so research the request and then proceed with all the facts needed to resolve the situation.
Golden Rule Avoid Confrontation If You Get Customers Complaints
When a customer makes a complaint to you, it can be really tempting to tell them that they are wrong, because, let’s face it, sometimes they are. But even if they are completely out of step with their claim, saying so is not going to do anything to defuse the situation. The worst thing you can do is arguing with them. Rather than challenge them and make them even more frustrated, listen to them and go to the next point.
Keep Impeccable Records Of The Customer Complaint
In most cases of Customers Complaints, the customer is really genuinely unhappy with a product or service and not just trying to get something for free (even if that happens too).
That said, we are living in Ireland and we do have, unfortunately, a “claims culture” with some people. Remember the so-called controversy known as the “swing-gate” incident and the lawsuit that went to court in Ireland back in 2019? When a reasonably well-known TD claimed she was injured while sitting on a garden swing chair in the Dean Hotel grounds on Dublin’s Harcourt Street. She visited the hotel with friends in 2015 at the height of its Instagram trendiness. There, she proceeded to fall backwards off a swing, apparently hurting herself. The TD accused the hotel of negligence; suggesting that the swing was “unsupervised” and there were no signs to instruct patrons how to use it safely (the TD’s solicitor did a pretty bad job of fact-checking on the exactness of any applicable Irish Laws here and the incident circumstances).
The hotel maintained that the TD sat on the swing while both her hands were full, which later transpired as pretty accurate, the TD admitted she was drinking while holding a bottle of beer at least in one of her hands, whilst in the other hand question, she refused to answer at all. There were numerous errors in her affidavit submitted to the courts, including the date of the incident and a statement that said she hadn’t been able to run for three months. It transpired later she had run a 10km race after the hotel incident. Needless to say, the case was thrown out of court.
So the moral of this tale is don’t be put off just because you believe the complainant has (excuse any pun here) any swing in society, nor if they are persistent with any complaint-just know your exact legal rights as a retailer of the goods you sell along with any applicable Irish and EU business trading laws. After all, as a retailer or seller, you are in it for the long haul and will at some time have to deal with customer complaints, both genuine and ones who may “try it on” either deliberately or inadvertently, just remember to record every fact that you can, so you have an impeccable record of everything.
To Recap The Main Points Of Handling Customers Complaints
So to recap any points to take note of so far:
- Listen to the complaint. Thank the customer for bringing the matter to your attention.
- Record details of Customers Complaints.
- Get all the facts.
- Discuss options for resolving the problem.
- Act quickly.
- Keep your promises.
- Follow up.
How does the Consumer Protection Act apply to myself and my business?
Customers have a right to protection under the law. The Irish consumer protection law, which is based on a mix of Irish and European legislation, has evolved as a distinct area of law that concentrates on the general protection and promotion of those rights and interests. Some of these laws date back not just a few generations, but 100’s of years as well as more recently updated inclusions.
What Are The Specific Consumer Protection Laws in Ireland?
The following legislation includes consumer protection and therefore obligations to you as a business. You can download these as a PDF by clicking on the links.
- The Consumer Protection Act 2007
- The Consumer Rights Directive
- Sale of Goods Act 1893
- Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980
- The European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995
- S.I. No. 11/2003 – European Communities (Certain Aspects of the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees) Regulations 2003
What Are Your Responsibilities As A Seller?
If you are a salesperson or retailer, do not make false or misleading claims about goods, services and prices. Sell goods that are described in a false or misleading manner. This also includes any misleading advertising, misleading information and withholding material information are considered misleading practices. Do not engage in any aggressive practices such as harassment, coercion, or exercising undue influence. Examples of harassment are pressurising, intimidating and taking advantage of vulnerable consumers. If you deploy Social media influencers and bloggers for your business, these also have the same responsibilities under the law.
Consumer Rights Directive
For distance selling as in websites, Extended ‘cooling off’ period applies.
- Extended ‘cooling-off” period– Consumers can withdraw from a distance selling contract and seek a full refund within 14 days of the date on which they received the goods. In the case of a contract for a service, the cooling-off period ends 14 days after the contract starts.
- Ban on hidden fees and charges– You must disclose the total cost of the product or service, including any additional fees (e.g. taxes or delivery charges), before the order is confirmed. Consumers will not have to pay any extra charges if you do not properly inform them of these costs in advance.
- Right to quicker refunds– Previously, online sellers were obliged to refund consumers who withdrew from a contract within 30 days, this period has been shortened to 14 days, and the refund must include the cost of delivery.
- Ban on surcharges– The law prohibits businesses from imposing credit or debit card charges which exceed the actual cost borne by the provider of offering this method of payment.
- Crystal clear information on the cost of returning unwanted goods– Consumers who avail of the fourteen-day cooling-off period have to pay for the cost of returning unwanted goods. The law states that if you expect the customer to pay to return an item, you must clearly inform the customer of this beforehand. Otherwise, you will have to cover the cost of the consumer returning the item. You are also obliged to provide an estimate of return costs in advance if the item is bulky or difficult to transport, so the consumer may make an informed choice before buying the goods.
How Do You Ensure Compliance With The Consumer Protection Legislation?
- Refrain from engaging in prohibited business practice. Ensure that, as indicated by the law, your marketing practices are not unjust, misleading, aggressive or prohibited. Make sure you comply with the pricing and pricing display regulations as set out in the law.
- Avoid the use of unfair language in standard contracts. If you use standard contracts in your business, you need to ensure that your contract terms are fair. According to the legislation, a standard term is unfair if it gives the merchant an unfair advantage over the consumer, or if it deprives him of legal rights. The legislation, The European Communities (Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts) Regulations 1995, requires that standard terms are written in plain and understandable language. It provides examples of terms that could be found to be unfair.
- Make sure that you comply with the obligations contained in the European Union (Consumer Information, Cancellation, and Other Rights) Regulations 2013.
- The quality of goods and services that consumers purchase are addressed by the Sale of Goods Act 1893 and the Sale of Goods and Supply of Services Act, 1980.
- You must make sure that the goods you sell comply with the general safety requirements.