A Four Step Plan for Handling Customer Complaints

By Cindy Waxer

Handling customer complaints properly can mean the difference between making a repeat sale and losing a customer for good. In fact, according to T. Scott Gross, author of Outrageous!: Unforgettable Service… Guilt Free Selling customers who have never had a problem are not as loyal as customers who have had a problem that was successfully resolved. Here’s Gross’s advice for handling customer complaints.

Establish Rapport
Rather than cast blame, immediately say that you are sorry. Wait to gather the details. The bottom line is that if the customer is upset, you’re upset. Let customers know right up front that you are on their side. Let them know that this is not an adversarial situation. Then tell them that you want to hear all the details in order to rectify the situation.

Discover the Problem
Offer your undivided attention and listen carefully. Take notes. If the complaint involves an employee or a colleague, ask that third-party to join you in your discussion so that the situation doesn’t turn into a he-said-she-said confrontation. Stick to the facts only.

Cement the Relationship
Always end communications by telling customers exactly what has been done or what and when something will be done. Always thank customers for helping you uncover a missed opportunity to serve them. Don’t let customers leave unhappy.

Use Your Judgment
The truth is – the customer is not always right. There are customers who are out to take advantage of you. When customers want more than they pay for, complain just for the sake of attention, and abuse your colleagues, they are wrong – and you have every right to stand your ground.