Handling Client Complaints

Turning negative feedback into a positive experience can be difficult. Learn from Rena Alexander, Client Relations Specialist, and Anthony Strode, Client Liaison Manager, about a few ways you can help make a difference.

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Handling client complaints can be draining from the start. Prior to working with the client, you should have already started your research on the issue, have notes on hand, and your team should be aware of the complaint. While it’s impossible to avoid complaints, here are five tips that can make the interaction a little smoother and increase your chances of a positive outcome.

  1. Listen. This may seem obvious, but a large majority of clients that complain often times just want to be heard. They want to know that their concerns are validated and that if they had a negative experience, it won’t happen to someone else. But, being a good listener takes hard work and practice. A few tips to enhance your listening skills can be:

    1. Listen with the intent that you can repeat what the person is saying. It can be easy to tune out of a conversation mid-sentence, but challenge yourself! Try listening so well that you could actually repeat what the person is saying to you. This will help ensure that you fully understand what the client is saying.

    2. Incorporate different response phrases. Try avoiding, “mmhhmm, uh-huh, I see, got it, etc.” and include things like, “I completely understand what you’re saying, that would bother me too” or, “I’m really sorry you felt that way, we want to ensure that doesn’t happen again.” By incorporating more in-depth responses in your conversation, it shows the client that you are actually paying attention to their individual concerns. It also can help the client feel like you are engaged in the current situation.

  2. Take notes. Bring a notebook with you when meeting with an irritated client. This shows that you are taking their concerns seriously, and enables you to transfer your notes into an electronic system to share with your team if needed. A notebook will also allow you take down crucial information that the client says, such as specific monetary amounts, dates, medication names, or staff member names. Keeping track of actionable items such as what will happen next time, or follow-up steps will help you and other staff keep track of the complaint process.

  3. Try to connect, and be honest (at least as honest as you can be). It’s likely you have been in a situation where you have been frustrated at a company or specific employees. Think back to how you felt- what could have made that experience better? At DoveLewis, one of our most common frustration points is our wait time, especially overnights or on the weekends. We understand that a person can become frustrated waiting multiple hours to see a veterinarian on a Friday night- we get it! In these instances, it's even more important to explain why a client is waiting. Once someone has heard that a trauma or emergency was the reason they waited an extra hour, they tend to understand.

  4. Set accurate expectations. One thing that can make a situation go from bad to worse is when a client feels that they are being misled. If you know that the veterinarian won’t be able to see them for the next 30minutes, be upfront with the client and give them options. If you know that your manager won’t be able to return their call until the next business day, tell them. Setting accurate expectations will show that you value the clients time, while also allowing your team opportunity to get involved and caught up on the situation. If you can exceed the clients expectations, even better!

  5. Know what you can control, and be empowered to make a change. There are probably a few things that you can do to make a client’s experience go from bad to better. It can be anything from having snacks on hand to provide clients that have been waiting, to sending text message updates, to issuing a credit toward their next visit. Talk with your manager about ways that you can help make a difference, and surprise clients with your willingness to take initiative.

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