I was recently asked (most flatteringly) to give the opening address for a former staff member who has just opened his own real estate agency. As the words tumbled out of my mouth: “I’ve known Richard since his first day in real estate, I’ve seen him get his first listing, make his first sale, receive his first glowing testimonial.” It was at this point Richard with his trademark smile and honesty interjected with “She also saw me get my first complaint!” The audience laughed, and so did I.
Complaints, especially in service based industries like real estate are a common occurrence. Obviously great players attempt to minimise them, but I’ve always been of the opinion that when a complaint occurs, it shouldn’t be something you dread or push under the rug. It should be something that highlights a service or procedural error that you can improve on going forward. It's something that can make you better at what you do.
5 days before the launch I’d gone out on a lovely romantic dinner with my husband to celebrate the day upon which 8 years ago he’d proposed to me. We arrived home around 10.20pm, Saturday and I checked my phone to find a text message from one of my business partners informing me that there was an unfavourable review posted on our facebook site.
I logged on to facebook straight away. After reading the review I texted the two staff members who may have been involved and heard back from them within minutes. From there I spent the next hour in repair mode.
The review gave us one star (this alone was mortifying for me when every other review on our facebook page had given us 5 stars). It stated that the person had called our office and hadn’t had their phone call returned in a reasonable time.
Devastatingly two of the reviewer’s friends had commented on the review already and it had only been up a matter of hours. That’s the power and the curse of instant social media beautifully illustrated. If 2 of his friends had felt they needed to comment, how many others had already seen it and not commented and how many had seen it just by looking at our page.
My first step was to comment on the review that I was looking into the situation and would be in touch soon. I also left my direct email address on that comment. I then went to the person’s facebook page and directly messaged them again stating that I was doing my best to get all the details and there I gave my direct mobile and email address and asked for some more details on the situation so that I could appropriately respond.
From there an email went out to all potential staff involved and all business partners as an update and a request for more information from those involved.
Sunday morning I heard back from the complainant with the details. His frustration was completely justified, we had not gotten back to him in an appropriate time and I let him know where I was at in my investigations, I let him know he had been heard and that I was just waiting on a few more pieces of information to not only find out how he’d been left without contact, but also to resolve the enquiry he’d contacted us with. I told him when he'd next hear from me.
8.30am – I had the information he required from us that he was after in his initial phone call to the office and had that side of the situation resolved fairly quickly.
By midday I also had an explanation as to how the return of his call had been delayed. We’d had a staff member away from the office on medical grounds and this contributed to the delay. However, most importantly, when I relayed this to the complainant, to me the most vital thing was that I let him know that these were the circumstances surrounding the issue, but they were by no means an excuse. Every office is busy, every office has people away sick and every office should have appropriate means in place to deal with these everyday occurrences so that the experience to the customer is seamless.
In damage control mode I wanted to make sure that while I was working on resolving this issue that the unfavourable review wasn’t the first someone saw when they looked at our reviews page. As such I asked a number of clients if they'd feel comfortable in reviewing our services on the page and quickly we had a couple of lovely reviews from very happy clients showing at the top of the page. Now, back on to resolving my one star.
Tuesday - Wednesday
I went to the office in question so that I could speak to the staff members involved and conduct some training based on the feedback we’d been provided.
I kept contact with the complainant informing him of the training I was doing and the progress we were making in attempting to have delays of this sort not be an ongoing issue.
I touched base a final time with the complainant to make sure he was 100% happy with the way I’d handled the issue. When he replied that he was, I asked if he felt comfortable removing the review. His reply was that I’d gone to a lot of trouble and he was happy to remove his review. He was extremely reasonable the entire time I dealt with him. And my final follow up to this gentleman will be to pop something in the mail to him next week thanking him for his feedback and for helping us become a better service company.
Ultimately, with social media, you can typically find ways to remove unfavourable posts and reviews by deleting them. For me that was never an option. If I couldn’t find a way to resolve this issue for the gentleman so that he felt comfortable deleting the review himself, I would have left it there (as sad as that would make me).
Was it a lot of work to go to get him to delete the review? Yes, it was quite a big investment in my time.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. It highlighted an aspect of my business that I wasn’t aware of and that needed addressing.
I’d go as far as to say that I’m grateful for the complaint because of the flaws in our service delivery that were easy to address and rectify that it illuminated.
The next time you get a complaint – will you see it as an opportunity to get discouraged or an opportunity to improve?
Reproduced with permission from the Kirsty Dunphey weekly email. To subscribe to Kirsty Dunphey's weekly email, go to www.kirstydunphey.com