Turning client complaints into compliments

Employees frequently concentrate on the positive side of their conversations with clients, and often fear management disapproval if a complaint comes to light. This can often hinder what otherwise might have been healthy and useful criticism. Complaints can show a firm what needs to be changed, so accountants should work hard at generating honest feedback from their clients, be it positive or negative.

One way to solicit feedback is by simply asking clients to provide it. An example would be sending a personal letter to clients that includes a questionnaire, or invites them to call if they have any complaints or problems.

Following up this initial contact with a telephone call to arrange a meeting with clients is another good way to discuss the services the firm is providing for the client. Although clients may typically begin meetings by saying that there is ‘nothing wrong,’ a little probing usually results in the client saying what they really think.

Once back in the office, accountants should write a report outlining their findings, striving to be as specific and candid as possible. If a client complaint concerns a specific employee, it is often best to speak directly to him or her about the problem, and try to determine what can be done to rectify it.

Generally, complaints are best handled by the people that can do the most about them, which is usually the person in charge of the particular area. A complaint about the firm’s telephone system should go to the firm administrator while the personnel manager would handle a complaint about a secretary’s rudeness. However, clients can complain to any member of staff, so handling them should be everyone’s responsibility.

If a firm decides upon this approach, adequate employee training is critical. Employees must be made to feel that they play an important part in customer service, and it is the responsibility of management to encourage this company ethos.

Firm should present customer service training to employees in a way that puts them at their ease. Let them know that it is healthy criticism, which should not be taken too seriously. Do not blame or praise, because this could lead to resentment or low morale. Feedback should always be presented in the context of, ‘How could we do this differently?’

Firms may start to see improvement in a very short time, but this process can take as long as a year. Training your staff to look at clients more closely is an easy and effective way to measure client satisfaction on a daily basis.

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