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Managing Complaints

Cheap Takeaway Menus provides high quality, low cost menus to the takeaway industry. Our sister site Cheap Takeaway Websites provides the industry with equally high quality great value online food ordering websites.  Between us we cover all aspects of running a takeaway, offering hints, tips and advice. This month we’re going to take a look at complaint handling.
Pretty much every company will have to deal with complaints. The world’s an imperfect place, things can go wrong for any number of reasons; complaints can be about much more than your skills or your business approach, but the buck does stop with you. Unless you’re trying to put yourself out of business you certainly won’t be looking to generate any customer complaints, so whatever has gone wrong or the customer isn’t satisfied with, it’s in your best interest to want to fix it both for them and for yourself.
Dealing with complaints effectively and efficiently is great way to highlight your professionalism and your commitment to the happiness of your customers. It's easy to play the blame game when things go wrong, but a cool head must prevail. Solving a problem well can be a great opportunity for your business to create happy customers and perhaps generate great word of mouth. 
Here are a few tips for dealing with complaints.
Think fast, act fast: When a complaint comes in, don’t ignore it. Don’t put it to one side to deal with later. Tackle it straight away. Draft and send a reply, if only to acknowledge that you have received the complaint and you’re taking it seriously. It doesn’t matter what you think of the complaint (it might be blatantly unreasonable), responding and responding quickly is the first best approach. 
Make notes and take note: It may be a complaint you can resolve quickly and easily, but it may not. Try to make notes at the time of the complaint if possible, and throughout the process. Keeping notes helps with your recall later on. If the complaint is serious or complicated it will be a huge help if you can refer to your notes, observations, ideas and feelings at the time. Try and be open-minded and understanding about what’s happened. Write down any important points and get as much information as possible.
Apologise: At this stage it really doesn’t matter what you think, some kind of apology can often diffuse a situation before it goes any further. In rare cases offering an apology can be admission of guilt and/or liability, but there’s nothing wrong with ‘I’m sorry you feel that way’ or ‘I’m sorry for any inconvenience’. A show of sympathy can go a long way in these situations.
Stay calm: It would be all too easy to lose your cool here, but this is the one time when it’s most important. You don’t want to make a bad situation worse, say something you might regret, or do your business any damage. If you think you might be about to lose it, remove yourself from the situation, calm yourself down and return when you can handle things with a level head.
Look on the bright side: Instead of taking a negative approach and getting your back up, try to look at it as an opportunity to learn, to be generous, and to be the bigger person. What can you do to help alleviate the situation? A simple offer made at the right time can take the wind out of a complainant’s sails. There shouldn’t be any kind of ‘you versus them’ thinking here. Whatever has happened, the desired outcome is a content customer. Bear that in mind. 
The business is the bottom line: There should be no personal feelings on your side of a complaint. A customer may feel differently, but as far as you’re concerned this is all about the business and its future reputation. So demonstrate real concern for the complaint, and a commitment to get it resolved quickly and to everyone’s satisfaction. The business is all important, so try to set everything else aside.
Stay in touch: It’s always good customer service to keep the customer informed, even more so when we’re talking about complaints. So stay in contact with your customer if you cannot resolve their complaint quickly, if only to let them know that. No one likes to think that their grievances are being ignored, and if they don’t know what’s happening this could make matters worse. So keep them up to date on developments, even if there aren’t any.
Take ownership: Taking responsibility is good, grown up business. It means you do not shy away from problem solving, you’re willing to admit when you’ve made a mistake and learn from it, and you put stock in the views and experiences of others. Whoever is at fault (if anyone), taking on the problem and seeing it through to a satisfactory resolution should be best practice. If there are lessons to be learned or refresher training to be given, follow up on that as soon as possible, and inform the complainant that it will be happening.
Learn a lesson: Resolving a complaint should involve more than rectifiying an error and appeasing a customer. It should be something you learn from so you don’t repeat it. Examine what went wrong, what caused the issue, and how it developed. From this information you will be able to identify any gaps in your processes, any room for improvement, and any places where a change or a rethink might be necessary. 
Legal recourse: If your best efforts haven’t managed to sort everything out, then it must be a pretty serious complaint, in which case now is the time to speak to a legal expert who might be able to help you further. 
Some complaints can be resolved with an apology, some might need a little sweetener, and others might require you to go further still to make sure everyone’s happy. Whatever you are faced with, just remember that addressing complaints quickly and objectively is always the way it should be done.


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About the Author

Kevin Moyse

With over 19 years creative marketing experience Kevin has a wonderful knowledge of takeaway restaurant industry and specialises in creative takeaway menu design and printing.

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