Independent builders’ and plumbing merchants have an advantage over chain merchants because they’re more likely to be able to build strong relationships with their customers and clients. Customer loyalty is as valuable now as ever, particularly in a growing and fiercely competitive market where traders are always under pressure to keep margins low. Even the most loyal of customers will have the occasional complaint with a trader’s products or services, however. Taking complaints can hurt. It can cause rifts between you and previously longstanding customers, lead to disagreements between staff, and also put a dent in your profits. When handled badly, complaints can cause a drop in morale and a loss in business. What can you do to deal with complaints fairly and how can point-of-sale software help you turn these complaints into opportunities?

Acknowledge, listen, understand, apologise and respond

Do you have a complaints policy in place? Whether formally or informally stated, it’s important that your staff follow set procedures when a customer complains. First, be sure to acknowledge and listen to the complaint. Customers will appreciate it if you are genuinely keen to hear their concerns, and ultimately feel less aggrieved as a result. Reword and repeat the complaint back to them to show that you understand what their problem is. It’s imperative that you apologise, even if you’re not sure if their complaint is entirely valid. Respond by stating what action you will take, and when you’ll take it. If you’re able to act instantly to resolve the problem, the customer will be impressed. If it’s going to take a little longer to change things or get to the root cause of the problem, let them know roughly how long it will take, and what you’ll be doing to stop the problem from occurring again in the future.

Improving response times

Perhaps the best way to turn complaints into opportunities is by showing the customer how quickly you’re able to solve the problem in response to their complaint. Therefore, having data at your fingertips is key. Depending on the nature of the problem, having access to details on margins, customer credit limits, agreed discounts and stock levels might mean that you’re able to act instantly to solve the problem and address the compliant there and then. Point-of-sale software provides you with this information as soon as an item is scanned. Whether you’re altering a customer’s credit limit or notifying them of previously agreed discounts, they will be surprised and reassured that you were able to deal with their complaint so quickly. If you’re unable to respond immediately, discuss with the customer what you could do to appease or satisfy them in the meantime – perhaps by offering an exceptional discount or an extended credit limit.

Specific complaints:

Ran out of a product: Change the minimum stock levels in your retail management software stock control module so that the automatic order for new stock occurs at a higher level. Notify the customer of the change you’ve made – that way, you’re able to assure them that the problem won’t happen again.

The price is too high: Review the margins on the product in question using your point-of-sale software. Consider how your competitors price the product, and also whether you’re able to afford discounting the product in the near future.

Stopped stocking a product. Point the customer to its replacement or an alternative, and consider a discount for the first few weeks or months of its sale if it’s more expensive than the product it replaced.

Reinforcing loyalty

If you’re able to deal with you customers’ complaints swiftly you’ll win their trust and continued loyalty, convincing them to trade with your business in future. Having data on hand, in addition to automated systems that help you order stock and send out invoices, is a great resource when you’re aiming to turn complaints into opportunities. Trader is a software package with flexible modules, specifically designed for independent builders’ and plumbing merchants. It offers stock management, accounting and point-of-sale tools to help you reinforce customer loyalty, turning complaints on their head and improving your service for the future. Contact us now to arrange a demonstration.