How to handle an HR problem in your social enterprise

As the owner of a social enterprise, you can’t always be there to deal with every customer.   Hiring others to do this job for you is a natural sign of healthy growth, but when a customer makes a complaint about your staff, what should you do?

Say, for example, your sales assistant is unable to assist a customer with their transaction, is unwilling to offer them additional assistance, or is short with the customer – you may be in line for a complaint.

If this happens, what should you do? Charge in and fire your sales assistant? Call the customer to grovel for their forgiveness? Or find a balance between the two?

If an unhappy customer feels that their grievance isn’t being dealt with, it can fuel the fires of discontentment. Likewise, if an employee isn’t addressed for poor service by their superiors, they may never know to change their ways.

As the person in charge, you’ll need to be able to turn the situation around for both the customer and your employee.

1.  Deal with the customer first

You need to be sure the customer feels that their complaint has been acted on as quickly as possible. This is why you should always talk to the customer directly, and establish what they’re unhappy with and how you can make it better for them.

Don’t put off speaking to the customer, because ignoring them will only make the situation worse.

Take as much information as you can, and advise the customer that you’ll look into the matter before coming back to them with a resolution.

2.  Speak to your staff

Always take any customer concerns seriously, but also listen to the member of staff involved.

Their account of the events might differ from that of the customer, and you need to understand the full story before you can rectify it.

If your employee was in the wrong, you need to take steps to stop this happening again.

3. Educate your staff

Once your customer complaint has been dealt with, it’s time to focus on the member of staff it was made against.

Not everyone in your social enterprise will have the same customer service skills or work ethic as you do, and you can deal with this by educating them on the right way to deal with your customers.

You can train employees in customer service yourselves or send them on external training courses, but most staff members will benefit from some form of customer service training, to help them recognise how to turn a complaint into a positive learning experience.

4. Manage your staff

Successful social enterprises lead from above, and your staff will look to you for advice and inspiration.

If you offer a bad level of service, they won’t feel the need to offer anything better.

Learn how to manage your staff effectively, and reward them for good performance. If a member of staff has been subject to a complaint, oversee and manage their behaviour going forward by offering regular reviews and even an extended probationary period if you have concerns about their ability to change.

5.  Enfranchise your staff

Going back to our example of a customer complaint about poor service, it’s important to try and understand why the complaint took place.

Was the employee feeling overworked and under supported? If this is the case, you need to reassure them that they’re valued within your enterprise and help relieve any undue pressure that might be present.

What may seem like alackadaisicalattitude may actual be something completely different, so ask plenty of questions.

6.  Move forward together

If a staff member has to reprimanded for a minor misdemeanour, find a way to move forward together.

Extra training, recognition of service and rewards as well as setting achievable goals and targets will help make your staff feel important and supported, which will ultimately make them want to work harder for your social enterprise.

For every customer that raises a concern about your service, there’s an opportunity to turn an unhappy transaction into a positive one. In much same way, every inadvertent slip-up made by a member of your staff is an opportunity to educate and inspire them to work smarter.