Handling Customer Complaints

September 8, 2005
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You've done everything right: bought the very best equipment, taken the necessary IICRC classes, and selected the proper chemicals for the various jobs you perform.

You also have a couple of years' experience under your belt and a lengthy list of satisfied customers that keep you busy. Then one day a small, hardly noticeable problem with your machine results in a light-colored olefin Berber being left a little wet, and you get an irate call from the Customer From Hell.

The carpet you recently cleaned has developed large, nasty, dirty areas, and the CFH is demanding that you replace her 5-year-old carpet or do something about the discolorations, and fast. Obviously, handling the situation promptly is necessary to begin to rebuild her now-shaken trust in your abilities. Time is of the essence. Many years ago I was taught that a complaint properly handled will result in a referral in a short time. The following steps will go a long way in renewing that trust.

Listen. Assure the customer that you are now aware of her situation, that it will be corrected promptly - there's that word again - and that you understand her concerns. Determine the exact causes of her ire, such as which rooms are involved, what color are the discolored areas, how large or small, when did they appear, did the carpet dry slowly, and is there an odor as well as the discoloration? When would it be convenient for her to have a re-clean performed? Are there any other problems with the job?

Apologize. Express to her that you are very sorry for her inconvenience. Remind her that everyone makes mistakes, and that you will be out as soon as it is convenient for her. Express your concern about the condition that developed, assuring her that you clean carpets on a daily basis without problems. Assure her that the condition will not harm the carpet, and that it will be corrected promptly.

Solve. Determine the exact conditions that exist by making a personal visit to the site. Get the customer's permission to attempt the correction. Make lots of notes. You may want to get some before and after photos of affected areas. Take measures to establish how/why the condition developed and what steps should be taken to prevent a repeat of this scenario. Plan procedures to be performed and when they are to be performed. In some cases it may be valuable to perform some test cleaning to be sure that the correction will be successful. Schedule the testing and/or correction at the customer's convenience, and perform the services as agreed. Make a post-cleaning inspection with the customer to ensure her satisfaction with the correction. Get a letter of gratitude from the consumer if possible for marketing purposes.

Thank her. Thank the customer for calling the problem to your attention. Let her know that you appreciate her allowing you to correct the situation and also appreciate her patience. Follow through on any commitments made to the customer to track the progress of project and her continuing satisfaction with this progress. Express your gratitude to her for her assistance in the project.

One last thing. Never argue with the customer. If you win the argument, you lose the customer. Well there's a little something to think about. See y'all next month, and thanks for reading.

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