Handling Upset Customers Over SMS

In today’s world, customers are empowered with a vast array of communication channels to express their opinions about a product or service. More and more, customers take advantage of SMS to communicate negative feedback to brands. This isn’t too surprising. After all, SMS is easy to use, and it’s also a more comfortable channel for consumers to air grievances compared to making a phone call.

It’s not uncommon for customers to bring up various issues during unrelated conversations, such as when you are reminding them of an upcoming payment. For businesses, this presents a challenge: How do you handle various customer complaints in a professional and effective manner — all while keeping the conversation on track?

Plus, not all customer issues are created equal. If a customer has an issue with your service, you can and should respond to try to solve the problem. However, if a consumer complains about the way you’re reaching out to them, you need to understand relevant regulations to remain compliant while also providing a great customer experience.

The Short Version

  • Make sure you’re listening. Most numbers are still not text enabled. If you aren’t hearing your customers, you miss opportunities and risk making customers more upset because you aren’t responding.
  • Processes and techniques to handle unhappy customers successfully include listening carefully, asking questions, apologizing sincerely, following up, and offering a small gesture of compensation.
  • A conversational approach is the best way to handle upset customers while still encouraging the desired outcome of the interaction.
  • Compliance regulations, such as the TCPA, must be followed in marketing and outreach campaigns to avoid legal issues.
  • There may be other legal requirements to do a detailed review of a consumer complaint in certain industries (e.g., financial services).

Listen for Customer Feedback

Some issues or complaints are inevitable any time a brand opens a communication channel with their customers. Helping customers quickly and effectively is critical to keeping their business and protecting your brand reputation.

Customers are going to share their opinions, good and bad, using SMS. If your business hasn’t enabled your public phone numbers to receive texts, you might be surprised at how much communication you’re missing out on.

If you aren’t listening for feedback over SMS, you’re losing key insights and opportunities to correct the situation. Plus, you’re likely to make angry customers even more upset if they aren’t being heard on their preferred channel.

Illustration of a customer expressing negative feedback with a customer service representative remaining silent with a frowning face.

The Impact of Responding Correctly

Your response in these situations can make all the difference. One study found that 52% of customers have switched brands due to poor customer service (Accenture). Furthermore, unhappy customers might share their negative experience with others, potentially leading to lost business and negative word of mouth.

However, it’s not all bad. When customers have their issues handled right away, they may actually be willing to spend more on future purchases with the brand (Harvard Business Review). Just as important, handling an unhappy customer can also provide valuable insights into the source of the dissatisfaction. This can enable brands to improve their products or services and help prevent similar complaints in the future.

Clearly, it’s crucial for businesses to handle complaints effectively and prevent the loss of potential customers. So how should they go about this?

Processes and Techniques to Handle Customer Issues

When a customer raises an issue, it is essential to remain calm and professional, even if the customer is upset. Here are some processes and techniques to handle customer problems successfully.

Listen Carefully

When fielding a customer’s concerns, active listening is key. Listen carefully to the reason they are upset without interruption. Let them explain their issue in their own words and take notes to ensure that you have all the facts.

Ask Questions

Ask questions to gather as many details as possible about the customer’s issue. This will help you understand the root cause of the problem and find an effective solution.

Remain Calm

It can be frustrating to deal with upset customers, but it is essential to remain calm and to speak in a professional manner. Take deep breaths and focus on finding a solution to the problem.

Apologize Sincerely

Even if you believe that the customer’s grievance may be unfounded, apologize sincerely for any inconvenience caused. This will show the customer that you value their business and are committed to getting the problem resolved quickly.

Solve the Problem

Work with the customer to find a solution to their problem as quickly as possible. If the issue cannot be resolved immediately — or can’t be resolved at all — make an extra effort to explain the reason to the customer.

Customers rarely want to hear empty excuses, but a truthful explanation (along with a sincere apology) can help diffuse the situation.

Follow Up

After the problem has been resolved, follow up with the customer to ensure their satisfaction. This will show that you value their feedback and are committed to maintaining a positive relationship.

Use Negative Feedback To Improve Internal Processes

Use customer feedback to identify common issues and improve internal processes. This can help prevent similar complaints from occurring in the future.

Offer a Small Gesture of Compensation

A small gesture, such as a gift certificate or discount, can go a long way towards showing the customer that you value their business. Of course, only offer this in a consistent way governed by company policy. Speaking of which…

Be Aware of Company Policy and Guidelines

This probably goes without saying, but it’s essential to be aware of your company’s guidelines and policies when handling customer issues. This will ensure that you are following the correct procedures and are providing consistent customer service.

 Real, Human Conversation

If your brand is one of the many, many organizations that use automated SMS systems to text customers at scale, you might be wondering how that approach fits with these best practices. After all, a simplistic automated text can’t easily show active listening or offer contextually relevant solutions. What’s more, technologies like chatbots risk further upsetting a customer by giving them a frustrating experience rather than a real conversation. Rather than feeling truly heard, chatbots that only look for key words come off as mechanical and uncaring.

This is why conversational outreach is an essential strategy for handling customer issues. Conversational outreach can hold personalized, one-on-one conversations and adapt to customer needs. This approach enables you to pivot to address negative feedback sensitively, and then intelligently drive the conversation back to the original goal — such as encouraging a sale, renewal, or cross-sell.

What If Your Outreach Is the Problem?

When your SMS or phone call outreach itself is the reason your customers are complaining, it’s important to take immediate action to address their concerns. This can happen if the messages are perceived as spam, if they aren’t relevant, or if they are too frequent, causing annoyance to the customer.

If you receive these types of complaints, it’s crucial to ensure that your SMS outreach complies with relevant regulations and best practices. These include the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the guidelines set out by organizations like The Campaign Registry (TCR) and CTIA.

Believe it or not, as many as 44% of firms using text messaging marketing are unfamiliar with the TCPA (99Firms.com). The TCPA governs customer complaints in marketing and outreach campaigns. One of the most important parts of TCPA compliance is properly disqualifying recipients who indicate they do not want to be contacted. These consumers must be removed from the campaign immediately to avoid legal issues.

Drips Can Help Keep It Safe

With compliance as a top priority, Drips handles disqualification with an intelligent approach that could help reach higher levels of compliance for many brands. Many other systems can only understand STOP, END, UNSUBSCRIBE, etc. But Drips’ natural language processing technology can recognize hundreds of thousands of unique ways a user can ask to be removed from a campaign. This approach can help brands stay compliant.

Drips can also capture the reasons why consumers disqualify. This empowers brands to understand their audiences and make informed decisions on how to communicate in the future.

If you’re interested in transforming customer issues into an opportunity for growth, learn more about our Disqualified by Drips approach.

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