complaints-how-to-respondLast week I received a complaint from one of our BNI chapter members, that my Education Moment was too long! Rather than taking it personally, I decided to take inspiration from it and prepare a new Education Moment on how to deal with complaints.

I found this article by Ben Ridler from New Zealand on line:

At some point, everyone in business has to deal with an upset customer. The challenge is to handle the situation in a way that leaves the customer thinking you operate a great company.

When it comes down to it, many customers don’t even bother to complain. They simply leave and buy from your competitors. Research suggests that up to 80 percent of customers who leave were, in fact, “satisfied” with the original company. Obviously, customer satisfaction is not enough. Businesses nowadays need to positively delight customers if they want to earn their loyalty.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but a business owner’s ability to effectively deal with customer complaints provides a great opportunity to turn dissatisfied customers into active promoters of the business. Here are some customer-oriented suggestions on how to deal with complaints:


  1. Listen carefully to what the customer has to say, and let them finish. Don’t get defensive. The customer is not attacking you personally; he or she has a problem and is upset. Repeat back what you are hearing to show that you have listened.


  1. Ask questions in a caring and concerned manner. The more information you can get from the customer, the better you will understand his or her perspective.


  1. Put yourself in their shoes. As a business owner, your goal is to solve the problem, not argue. The customer needs to feel like you’re on his or her side and that you empathize with the situation.


  1. Apologize without blaming. When a customer senses that you are sincerely sorry, it usually diffuses the situation. Don’t blame another person or department. Just say, “I’m sorry about that.”


  1. Ask the customer, “What would be an acceptable solution to you?”
    Whether or not the customer knows what a good solution would be, I’ve found it’s best to propose one or more solutions to alleviate his or her pain. Become a partner with the customer in solving the problem.


  1. Solve the problem, or find someone who can solve it— quickly!
    Research indicates that customers prefer the person they are speaking with to instantly solve their problem. When complaints are moved up the chain of command, they become more expensive to handle and only add to the customer’s frustration.


There is no getting around customer complaints, regardless of your industry. However, by employing these steps and taking the time to review the issue with the customer, you can turn challenges into something constructive.

Let me give you one example on how not to deal with a complaint:

To our BNI Chapter member who complained that my Education Moment was too long: Just suck it up!

 By the way, you might have noticed that today’s Education Moment was somewhat shorter.


Thank you!