When I’m asked to deliver customer service training to veterinary nurses, the first things I ask are ‘Where do you think your service is lacking?’ and ‘What are your most common customer complaints?’.
It’s not easy to critique ourselves. Complaints are a fact of life and the tendency is to resolve them as best as we can without incurring too much collateral damage. Training is delivered, team members are counselled and consoled, and life goes on. Until next time. So what is the easiest way to review and improve your customer service practices so that the same complaints don’t keep recurring?
The good news is that we can simplify the process by looking at complaints in terms of how the client feels. Regardless of whether the complaint is about cost, wait times or patient care, the outcome is still a disgruntled client.
This is not about making mistakes. Mistakes are the most forgivable causes of complaints, and if handled honestly with a sincere apology and sometimes a small compensation, the odds are very high for retaining the customer. They may even become one of your best advocates. This is about examining the impact of poor service practices on our clients and looking at ways to do them differently.
Client perceptions generally fall into one of these 5 categories:
- Low priority.
I felt ignored/stupid/unimportant. The staff were too busy, they didn’t listen to me and they were dismissive of my concerns.
- No follow up.
Nobody called me back. I had to keep calling them to find out my dog’s lab results.
- Lack of accountability or ownership.
I had to repeat my story to a different person every time I called.
They told me that they don’t offer grooming services anymore but when I asked for a recommendation they said I should just Google it.
- Unmet expectations.
The vet promised that she would stop my dog’s skin from itching but I’ve paid a fortune for consults and tests and it isn’t fixed yet.
By tracking your customer complaints and measuring them in terms of customer perception, we can begin to identify problem areas and implement remedial actions.
Log your complaints in a spreadsheet and make it a habit to sort them by category once every quarter. By colour coding them you will soon see which areas of concern are having the most impact on your client retention.
There’s an old saying that ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.’ We will never be able to prevent complaints altogether, but by capturing data and analysing our customer perceptions we can take back a measure of control and become more proactive about preventing and minimising complaints.
Do you have a system for reviewing your customer complaints? What have been the most successful complaint mitigation techniques for your practice? Drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org