Dealing With Customer Complaints in a Service Business Pt 1


You know, client complaints in a service business are especially painful.  After all, if you sell a dress and they don’t’ like it, they return it – it’s all pretty impersonal.

But, if you run a service business, and the client complains about the service – well yeah.  It feels like they’re complaining about you, and yeah, you’re probably going to take it kind of personally.  Well – don’t

First, you have to take a hard look and figure out if what you’re dealing with is real or is it perception.  Of course, as they say – perception is everything.  So in that way, it doesn’t really matter which you have to address.  But the WAY you go about attacking the problem very much depends on how much truly is perception and how much is reality.

Let’s start with reality.  Do a bit of self analyzing.  What feedback is your client giving you.  Do they think you’re slow on response times.  Or that your detail isn’t there.  Or maybe they don’t feel you’re proactive enough, and actually leading them, with your expertise.

So, think about what they’re saying.  Are there areas where you can improve your service.  To be honest, we can all improve – so actually no matter what feedback you’re getting, there’s probably at least a grain of truth in there.  So, you’re going to need to fix that.

Now – be honest with yourself.  Do you feel things slipping through the cracks, just a little?  Are you finding yourself being surprised by deadlines that snuck up on you; and then you’re running around like crazy trying to pull everything together for that presentation you promised.

Or maybe you’re feeling so swamped that when that eMail comes in you think to yourself – it won’t really matter if I answer it tomorrow.  And then tomorrow morning, turns into afternoon, then evening, then before you know it, it’s been 2 days, and you still haven’t replied.

Listen, we’ve all been there.  Maybe even recently.

You’re going to need to get yourself organized.  That’s the only way to get in front of your work, and go back to providing the stellar service you’re known for.

It may seem counterintuitive, but stop DOING for a minute, and take stock of what needs to get done and when.  In other words, you need to plan.

Remember what Lincoln said.  “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six sharpening my axe.”  The right preparation makes all the difference in the world, and can be the key to success or failure.  So, take a time out and sharpen your axe.

I’m not talking about your to do list.  You know – what you need to do today, tomorrow and this week.  I’m talking about looking carefully at your service cycle.  What’s a service cycle?  Well we professional service businesses, particularly when we’re on some sort of retained engagement, well there are things we do every month, or every two weeks, or maybe even weekly.

 figure out if what you’re dealing with is real or is it perception.”

For instance, if you’re a bookkeeping business, you have to balance the books each month and prep a status report for the client.  If you’re a marketing pro, you have to monitor the campaigns on a regular basis to see what’s working and what isn’t.  There’s a cadence to most of your work.  Well, you need to identify what needs to be done on a regular cadence, determine the due date for each thing, and then reverse engineer it.

What information or data do you need to do the thing.  Where does that come from, and how long will it take to get.  OK, now back up that amount of time from the due date.  Then add in a few days cushion – because be honest – we always need cushion.

Now that you understand what needs doing, look at how you have been getting these things done (or not done) in the past.  What’s working, and what really isn’t.  And don’t be aspirational here – don’t think, “well if all things go according to plan, or I’m sure I can get that 6 hour task down to 30 minutes” – that’s just not realistic.  And remember, the goal here to address your client’s complaints.  So undercutting the time you actually need to accomplish something will only end badly for everyone.

To help you get started, grab my free

Client Status Update Template.

Use this easy to follow template to create your own client status updates.  It includes everything you need; a place for updates, metrics reporting, industry updates, and your professional analysis.

In fact, it’s a great idea to use the Status Update template with all your clients.

If you don’t have one already, get a good project management system – and yes, you do need a good project management system.  Why?  Because the work you do, the outstanding service you provide, is multi faceted.  One piece relies on another piece and so on.  You need something that can not only list out what needs to get done and when, but can send you updates and reminders; something that can hold documents, pictures, videos and anything else that’ll help you when you’re working on that particular task.  Something that can be set on repeat so it aligns with the cadence of your business.  Something that allows you to assign that task to someone else, easily and with no fuss.

So no – an excel spreadsheet, or paper to-do list, just won’t cut it.

Now, there are a ton of great project management systems – we use Asana.  And if you want to know more about how I use it in my business, take a look at this episode.

And the best part – a good project management system makes client status updates so much easier because you don’t have to re-invent the wheel every time.  And yes, if you haven’t already, you are going to need to start providing your client with timely status updates on the work you’re doing for them.  And if you already do status updates (and I don’t mean to hurt your feelings) but you’re probably going to have to make them a lot better and/or more frequent.  Because remember, they’ve complained – so your #1 job now is to up their comfort level, and re-build their trust.

And that leads us to dealing with the client’s perception.

In next week’s episode I’ll tell you how to regain your client’s trust, and polish up your reputation.

Spread the word

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our site.