Customer service protocol: how best to handle complaints.

In the world of 24 hours, intercontinental communications, it is easier than ever for consumers to interact directly with brands and online stores. The digital consumer prefers to communicate digitally with its favourite brands. This means that eCommerce sites have to adapt quickly to the onslaught of reviews, queries and questions from their followers, either on their leading websites or via social media channels.


Some businesses that have been around before social media changed everything, stick to outdated methods of communication. In contrast, others, in trying to move with the times, have still made disastrous social media faux pas in the process. LG, the electronics company, tried to make fun of Apple’s #bendgate by tweeting from the LG France account that “Our smartphones don’t bend, they are naturally curved ;)”. The latter had egg on their faces when the public saw that the tweet was sent from an iPhone. Delivering excellent online customer service is not difficult. eCommerce sites can manage this easily with a bit of thought and dedicated staff.


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Make sure your communications are a two-way street.

Whatever you do, make sure there are dedicated staff on hand to answer the queries and grievances that your customers have. The quickest way to make your customers feel devalued and under-appreciated is to ignore them. Slight niggles can quickly escalate into full-blown anger if queries aren’t addressed straight away. How you respond, should show that you have fully understood and taken on-board the question.


If the customer is complaining, address the issue respectfully instead of taking it personally, as the example below. Also, cutting and pasting bog-standard responses that do not adequately address complaints, will not cut it. Neither will redirect customers towards the FAQ page of your site. Open up a fluid dialogue between you and your customer, where you treat them as intelligent individuals and their complaints as imperative. Social media is now the door and windows of your brand, be warm, welcoming and helpful, even when dealing with sensitive issues.




Offer a mix of available communication platforms.

It can be tempting just to monitor your site and social media pages, responding straight away to queries on these platforms, but remember that your consumers may wish to contact you via a multitude of different means. You may have a very niche consumer group – millennials or Generation Z -, who prefer to communicate with you digitally. But, if you serve an extensive section of society, don’t forget to run phone-line so that those people can get in touch with you in the traditional manner.


It is also advisable that you set up a Live Chat function on your site so that consumers can get in touch with you with any queries while they browse your website. Whereas Facebook and Twitter are often used to launch complaints, Live Chat allows for consumers to get in touch with any queries regarding site usability or deliveries, right there and then. Having those queries answered sufficiently right there at the moment can often be the difference between consumers completing a transaction or dropping off altogether.


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Empower your reps.

Whatever you do when it comes to staff training, make sure that no stone is left unturned with regards to your customer service reps knowing all areas of your site, your delivery procedures and your products. They must be armed with the knowledge to give the correct advice to consumers and to answer all questions that come up. It is no use them forwarding complaints on to various departments that never get back to the customer, as this causes consumers to become irritated and impacts negatively on your brand. Give your reps the tools that they need to take ownership of complaints.


It is worth your while setting up Google alerts and do Social Listening (check your brand hashtag and brand mentions on social) so that you can monitor mentions of it anywhere on the web. When you do receive negative feedback- don’t panic, offer an apology and acknowledge your error. If there is a genuine reason for the issue, do not hesitate to communicate the reason for this, it pays to be honest and transparent.


Reassure your customers that the error will be sorted out straight away. Use polite language and remain calm. If all else fails and your customers are still unhappy, you can always offer incentives to get them back onside. Free shipping, coupon codes for their next purchases etc., are all good ways of appeasing ruffled feathers. Remember: stay calm and respond as quickly as possible with helpful and reassuring advice.