Friday, February 22, 2013

Sidestep Complaint Extortion

There are customers who make unreasonable demands under threat that unresolved complaints, justified or not, will go viral on internet social networking sites or even result in lawsuits. Researchers at North Dakota State University started their analysis of this reality by noting how a Washington, DC man sued for $54 million when a locally-owned retail shop lost a pair of pants the man had brought in for dry cleaning.
     Prior studies identified steps you can take to minimize the probability of unreasonable demands:
  • Aim for fairness of outcomes. Ask the complainer, “What do you suggest I do to make things right?” Then see how close you can come to delivering. When you redirect the conversation from argument to teamwork, the request for corrective action can be both feasible and equitable. 
  • Institute fair procedures. Establish complaint-handling policies consistent with the personality you want your store to project. Use those policies to generate procedures which are easily understood by your staff. Then train your staff to follow the procedures and promptly deliver compensation for retailer errors. Include in your performance evaluation of each employee how well they handle customer complaints. 
  • Ensure fairness of interpersonal interactions. Treat each shopper in your store with respect, concern, and empathy. 
     But beyond the probability of unreasonable demands, what about the size? If you can erase the outrage with an action that’s not too costly, it’s better to keep the customer than to keep to a policy.
     With this in mind, let’s look at what the North Dakota researchers found out about complaining customers who make especially expensive unreasonable demands: They have a combination of two characteristics:
  • Throughout the purchase and complaint, they behave as though they suspect the retailer wants to take advantage of them. They’re guarded. They feel justified in shading the truth or speaking outright falsehoods. 
  • They find enjoyment in dominating the retailer. Rather than wanting to achieve a gain without attention to any loss for the retailer, the opportunistic claimants want to be sure the retailer loses so that the complainer’s win is greater by comparison. 
     These are not the kinds of customers you’d like to keep. Still, before deciding whether to part company with them, the North Dakota researchers suggest you say something like, “I trust you to want to resolve this fairly.” Such explicit statements of trust have been found to reduce the guarded, exploitive customer’s suspiciousness of the retailer.

Click below for more: 
Resolve Complaints Promptly 
Show Complainers Respect, Concern, & Empathy

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