How to Respond to Customer Complaints

When faced with an unhappy or angry customer, your response to that situation has the potential to defuse it or make it worse.

If handled incorrectly, a disappointed customer may turn into an angry customer.  If handled incorrectly, a disappointed customer may decide you don’t care about them and resolve never to come back to your business.  Even worse, that customer may decide to tell their family, their friends and their colleagues to NEVER do business with you either.  They may log into Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms to spread the message, which means even more people will get a negative impression about your business.

Whenever possible, try to resolve the situation BEFORE the customer walks out the door. That means listening and watching for clues of customer dissatisfaction.  A lot of customers will tell you everything is fine even when it’s not. Some may believe it’s not worth their time to lodge a complaint or perhaps they don’t believe anything will be done anyway. It’s up to you and your service team to find out about any issues or service concerns and address them quickly. The LEAPT strategy may help

Listen:  It’s not easy to listen to a customer complaint. Some customers are rude, some can’t seem to get to the point, and very often you have other things you need to deal with.  Put all of that aside and truly listen to what the customer is telling you.  Give them some time to get their anger and frustration out. Watch your emotions. Focus on the specifics of their complaint, not their personality or their delivery method.  Ask questions, nod, take notes.

Empathize:  Be sure your customer feels confident that you are understanding their concern. Ask yourself “How would I feel if this happened to me?” Don’t think about how you would act if it did happen to you, as that quickly leads to judging actions rather than focusing on the problem and the solution.

Apologize:  If you or someone on your team messed up, apologize.  If you had no control over the situation, apologize anyway.  An apology is not always an admission of guilt.  It is genuine regret that your customer’s expectations were not met.

Partner:  This step means working with the customer to come up with the remedy together.  Some people wait to deal with any issue until they have all the facts and potential solutions in place before interacting with the customer. Big mistake!  You’re just giving them time to get angrier and angrier. Very often, if listen, empathize and apologize were taken care of immediately and with sincerity, the resolution has already been found.  What most customers want is to be listened to, to have their disappointment acknowledged and to receive an apology.  Yes, some will want discounts, coupons, a free meal or a free stay and that’s ok.  A free meal, a coupon or a free stay costs your business a lot less than negative messaging.

Thank:  Thank the customer for sharing their disappointment with you. Instead of just leaving, they gave you an opportunity to fix it.  Instead of telling their family, friends and colleagues about their negative experience, they told you. Their complaint gave you the chance to make things right for this customer and perhaps other customers as well.

We need to know when a customer is unhappy and we need to take steps to address the problem immediately.  Customers are our bread and butter. They give us a reason to get up every day and go to work. Without customers, there is no work.

What are some things you do when a customer voices a complaint?