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Tips for dealing with customer complaints

Sometimes even the highest quality businesses and employees experience customer dissatisfaction. When a customer complains, the employee or manager must decide how to handle the conflict. Here are a few tips for handling unhappy customers:

• Listen patiently to the customer's complaint. Give the customer full attention and show concern for the problem they are describing. Wait until they are done explaining the problem before responding.

• Apologize to the customer. Even if the customer's complaints or demands seem unreasonable, it is good form to apologize for whatever difficulties they have suffered. A genuine apology shows a willingness to set the situation right and helps appease the customer so he/she is ready to listen to suggestions for a solution.

• Summarize what the customer said. After you apologize, briefly repeat the customer's complaint to verify details and show that you were listening.

• Discuss possible solutions. Present the customer with possible solutions to the problem, pausing to get feedback when appropriate. Continue to listen to any additional concerns, and address those as well.

• Make sure the customer is satisfied. Once a solution is reached and the customer agrees, make doubly sure that he/she is satisfied with the outcome.

• Take time to consider. After a confrontation with a customer, take some time to reflect on how the conversation went. What was negative about it? Did it end on a positive note? Could a similar situation be handled better in the future? If so, how?

• Learn from it. Realize that unhappy customers have the potential to become tremendous tools of growth and learning for individual employees and entire companies. Consider what can be learned from each conflict and use that knowledge to push yourself or your company toward excellence in your field.

Every business receives customer complaints from time to time. Dealing with them well is a mark of true business excellence.
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