We all have our off days. While it’s important to strive to provide exceptional customer service every day, no studio is perfect. Staff can make mistakes, and clients have a wide variety of standards and expectations.

Remember, it’s not the complaint, but rather how you handle the situation that leaves a lasting impression on your clients. Effectively dealing with clients’ complaints is largely dependent on how you receive it. The way you resolve an issue brought to your attention in person won’t work for addressing a negative post on social media. Here are a few tips for handling client complaints you hear in person, over the phone, by email and online.

FACE-TO-FACE
Hearing a customer complain in person is a blessing. While it puts you on the spot and may feel a bit awkward, this scenario offers you the best opportunity to immediately make things right with your client. If you can stop a client from walking out of your studio and telling others about a negative experience, you may prevent some potentially toxic word of mouth.

When a client approaches you to make a complaint, it usually means he or she is looking for a resolution to their problem. The first step is to pause and listen to the complaint. Don’t try to jump in with an apology or cut the client off by being defensive.

Your body language and vocal tone will play a huge role in whether or not your client will feel satisfied with your response. Avoid crossing your arms and be sure to maintain eye contact and keep your tone of voice even.

By listening attentively, you will get a clear idea about how you can rectify the situation. Consider what you can do for the client on the spot. For example, if a client was dissatisfied with an instructor or felt the other people in class were chatty and distracting, offer that client a free make-up class. Provide a voucher or gift card to the client before she walks out the door. Be sure to follow up with the client immediately after the make-up class to find out if she is satisfied or not.

OVER THE PHONE
Some clients may be more comfortable discussing an issue over the phone, rather than in front of other clients or instructors who may be around the studio. When a client complaint comes in over the phone or through voice mail, your tone, response time, and choice of words play a huge role.

Avoid using a scripted language, such as “I am sorry you were not happy with the class. It is our mission at this studio to address the fitness needs of all of our clients.” Listen carefully to whatever the client is saying and personalize your response. A good practice is to paraphrase the complaint as you understand it and confirm that you got it right.

Explain to the client what steps you will take as a result of the complaint, and be sure to follow up with the client by phone. For example, if a client calls to complain that the locker room was a mess or the studio space felt stuffy, begin by thanking the client for taking the time to call and let you know he or she is unhappy. Then explain what you will do to make sure the locker room is cleaned more often or the fans are always turned on.

EMAIL
Your email etiquette can say a lot about how you run your studio. Respond to any complaint within 24 hours. This means you should have mobile access to your inbox, as well as the inboxes of any general studio email addresses.

Before you reply, make sure you read and understand the complaint. If the client hasn’t supplied much information, ask any follow-up questions or offer a time to speak about the issue further on the phone or in person. There is nothing more annoying to an unhappy client than a useless solution. You can’t make a client happy until you fully understand the problem.

When you do respond, use proper email formatting but avoid using a template response. Clients will appreciate it when you take the time to draft an email response just for them.

SOCIAL MEDIA AND REVIEW SITES
Dealing with complaints online is, by far, more complicated than dealing with unhappy clients in person or over the phone. There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that without the ability to use body language or tone of voice, it is more difficult to convey that you are actively listening and that you are empathetic. The second, and more impactful, reason is the risk of a digital complaint going viral. An off day for an instructor can leave a bad impression on a client, quickly earning your studio a negative reputation when a complaint is posted to social media.

When you handle a complaint online, remember the issue is no longer just between you and the disappointed client. It now involves other people who can see the posts and comments. To take control of the situation, try to communicate with the individual through private messages.

Make sure you read and understand the issue correctly before you give a resolution; however, speed is critical. Seventy-two percent of consumers expect brands to respond to their tweets in an hour or less. Waiting too long to post a response can turn an irritated client into an irate one.

Review sites such as Yelp, Google, Insider Pages and Yahoo! are highly influential and can be potential land mines for your business. Have a process in place so that you or another staff member check these sites daily.

If and when you get a bad review, avoid arguing with the client at all costs. If you suspect that the bad review was written by a competitor or former employee, you can try “flagging” it, but don’t make accusations. The unhappy client isn’t the only one reading your response, so you’ll want to take the high road by apologizing, telling the client you will look into the matter and get back to them with a resolution offline.

Regardless of how a client chooses to log a complaint about your studio, give your best effort to make them happy, but don’t beat yourself up if you fail to do so.

Interested in learning more on how to best manage your Yelp business page? Register for our webinar on August 13th at 2 p.m. EDT.

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