How to Handle Complaints and Inquiries
Every site receives its own share of complaints and criticisms no matter how big or small. Most unsolicited criticism and general opinions can be taken with a grain of salt. Design is subjective in that everyone has different taste and ideas on how to present web graphics, information, format and layout. You should not implement every idea or suggestion that comes down the pike, but still, you need to be open to ideas that might improve your user's experience if you want your site to be 'user friendly' and more successful. There is room for improvement on every site. Instead of becoming defensive or offended by criticism, take a step back and seriously consider it from the user's standpoint. Give more weight to it if it comes from a more experienced user or if you have asked someone more knowledgeable than you are to critique your site.
Sometimes you just have new users land on your site who don't understand how the web works, users with older operating systems, browsers and resolutions who can't upgrade or change their settings for a variety of reasons, and dial-up users that view the web much slower than DSL and cable users. How you handle it matters more than you think.
Instead of taking offense, you should thank each and every one of the people who take the time to complain about something on your site that didn't work for them. For every complaint you receive, you can bet there are at least dozens of visitors who have thought the same thing but didn't take the time to tell you about it. And, if no one tells you, you have missed the opportunity to fix it for everyone. Don't shoot the messenger and alienate the very individuals who obviously like your site enough to want to help you improve it for them... thereby improving it for everyone else.
It's called providing good customer service and it has the potential to make or break a site where each site represents either a brick and mortar or virtual company/individual to a worldwide audience. According to the stats on DailyChanges.com, as many as 140,000 .com domains go down the drain each and every day for a variety of reasons. I would bet that poor customer service played a major role in their demise. Don't be one of them. Everyone who visits your site is a customer whether they buy what you are selling, have a general question about a product or are just browsing out of boredom... it doesn't matter.
I have actually returned product inquiries before and been told that out of all the contacts they made on several sites that day, I was the only one that actually responded! There must be a lot of sites out there on 'auto-pilot' where you can't even get a human response. Who do you think got the sale within 24 hours? That's why it's so important to answer each and every legitimate inquiry and complaint you get.
Investigate each complaint to determine if it is something you can fix quickly. If it is, then fix it and inform the person who sent the complaint that it has been fixed. Don't just say you'll make improvements, actually do something about it - if only to respond that you will look into it. Don't argue or over-explain your reasoning if you can't fix it immediately. Ignoring a complaint because you don't know what to do is the worst thing you can do. The internet is not all about who has the latest technology, or who has the best web site, or how to get rich quick, it's all about people - and that means being of service to people. The internet itself is just a communications tool used in different ways by groups of people with similar interests. It's just a new way to do the same old thing, only faster at a global level.
If you have a web site, you're providing a service to people. Your customer is every visitor to your site and without them, your site has no purpose for being there. How should you handle a legitimate complaint or inquiry about your web site?
Respond to each complaint within 24 hours
Ask additional questions as necessary to troubleshoot the problem
Personally thank them for bringing it to your attention
Be grateful for the opportunity to improve your site
If the issue has already been addressed, include a link to the page in your reply
Research the issue or ask for help from a more knowledgeable source
Make an attempt to resolve the issue without being defensive
If the complaint includes a suggestion for solving the problem that does not apply, take the time to explain how it really works
It may take a little extra time to investigate complaints and provide good customer support but the greatest benefit is that your site will get better and better with each fix. That little extra service might just help you improve your bottom line along the way and keep you from becoming just another .com statistic some day.
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