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Turn Complaints Around

No one looks forward to dealing with a complaint from an unhappy customer.

It’s uncomfortable and confronting and it’s hard not to react when someone is rude or angry.

The customer might be unhappy about the product or the service. Sometimes it’s as clear-cut as a product defect. Sometimes it’s a case of ‘that’s not what it said on the box’ and customer expectations have not been met.

It can take patience to hear the complaint and get to the bottom of what has actually gone wrong before you can even start to fix it.

How you respond can make all the difference.

Take a breath and appreciate the opportunity this customer is giving you. Thank them and mean it.
Sure it feels uncomfortable. But this customer has taken the trouble to come back (or call) and tell you about it. They are giving you the opportunity to sort it out.

They could have just walked away and you would never have known there was an issue.

Take a minute

If you have had a confrontation with an angry customer, take a minute for yourself after you resolve the situation. Clear your head and let go the stress from your encounter. It’s important that you can be positive and upbeat with the next person you speak with.

If you need to, go for a walk round the block or just as far as the water cooler or the tea room. Then you can give your best side to colleagues and customers again.

Tips for responding to unhappy customers

  • Be patient, stay calm and listen.
  • Ask ‘please can you tell me what happened’. Sometimes the customer just needs to vent. Weather the storm and keep your focus. It is important that they know they are being heard.
  • Don’t be tempted to jump to conclusions or think about what you’re going to say ahead of the facts.
  • Use active listening skills.
  • Make eye contact and ask questions to clarify if you need to. Keep your voice tone low and even.
  • Repeat your customers’ concerns to make sure you understand and they know you understand. Make this a point of agreement with them. Let them know you understand how they feel.
  • Apologise with a good grace whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation are. Try ‘I’m sorry that you’re not happy with our product (or service)’ or ‘I’m sorry you’ve had such an unpleasant experience with this.’
  • And then move straight into ‘Let’s see what we can do to make this right.’ Ask your customer what would solve the situation for them. Look at the options together. Again make this a point of agreement.
  • Make sure you follow up until you know the customer is satisfied with the outcome.

‘Thank your customer for complaining and mean it. Most will never bother to complain. They’ll just walk away.’
Marilyn Suttle, Success Coach