Dealing with customer complaints is part of doing business. Handle them correctly and you’ll look like a hero. Mess it up and there is a good chance that customer is out the door and on the phone (or worse, on the Internet) squawking to everyone they know about what a terrible business you run.

In his book, How To Win Customers And Keep Them For Life, Michael LeBoeuf cites some powerful statistics…

  • 96% of people who experience a problem with a small ticket item or service, do not complain.
  • This means that for every person who complains, 24 feel the same but do not say anything.
  • 91% of those people who do not complain, do not do business with that company again.

When someone complains, they are giving you the gift of an opportunity to make whatever is wrong, right.

This week’s Tip has 4 easy steps to help turn almost any customer complaint into a positive experience…

Tip #708 – 4 Steps To Make It Right

Step One: Say, “Thank you.”

By thanking them for bringing the problem to your attention you are signaling your willingness to listen. You’re also diffusing a lot of the anxious energy people bring when they come with a complaint. They’re probably prepared for a confrontation and a genuine, “Thank you so much for bringing this to my attention!” takes a lot of the wind out of that sail.

Even if you disagree with your customer, you can still be grateful that they told you about the problem. Remember, their complaint is a gift, treat it as one.

Step Two: Ask lots of questions and LISTEN.

Their lips may be saying, “The color is wrong,” when they are really saying, “It makes me look fat.” Don’t make judgments, don’t jump to conclusions, just keep the conversation going until you feel confident you’ve uncovered the real reason for the complaint.

I know, I know… some people are hard to read, they tell you lies, or they are just being a pain in the back side. Do your best to understand their real problem.

Step Three: Be empathetic.

Acknowledge how they feel. Apologize if it’s appropriate. People can tell if you are trying to understand, or just pretending to understand. Be on your customer’s side, even if you think they are the cause of the problem.

If you get into an argument with your customer, you lose. You might win the argument, but you’ll lose the customer.

Step Four: Solve the problem!

A simple and sincere, “What would you like me to do?” is the best way I know to handle it. Experience has shown me that if you give your customers the power to pick a solution they will almost always be reasonable. Of course, there may be an occasional knucklehead who will make a crazy request, but deal with these situations on an individual basis.

As a rule, give your customers the benefit of the doubt; they’re not taking advantage of you, they are giving you a gift!

One final statistic from How To Win Customers And Keep Them For Life:

“A customer that has their problems satisfactorily solved will provide 3 times the revenue of a customer that has never had a problem.”


Important Note: Empower your staff to make things right. They may occasionally make a mistake, but the benefits of amazing service will far outweigh the occasional overcompensation that comes from inexperience.

Originally published in WhizBang! Tip Of The Week.


Featured Contributor

Bob Negen, Contributor
Worldwide retail expert and speaker, Bob is constantly researching and developing new ways for retail store owners to stay ahead of the pack, delivering the most up-to-date tips, tactics, and techniques through speaking to groups, in one-on-one coaching programs, via social media and his weekly email newsletter and through his flagship training product for independent retail stores, The Retail Mastery System.

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