Dealing with Customer Complaints

angry womanHere’s a post from our former business Beezine that may be of interest to you. A theme that applies in any human interaction.

In our recent customer service workshop with one of our clients, we covered 10 golden rules for dealing with customer complaints. Here’s

Golden Rule #1 – Listen, Listen, Listen

When faced with a disgruntled or angry customer, people usually assume that the first thing to do is to fix his or her “problem”.

Sounds logical, doesn’t it? And it is certainly true that you are being asked to do something practical to solve the issue.

But this is only part of the story.

Firstly, it can be a mistake to leap into suggesting a solution before you have heard everything the customer has to say.

Sure, it can certainly be difficult to listen patiently if the customer is “in your face” with angry complaints! But instead of justifying, apologising, or moving into problem-fix mode too quickly, first ask some extra questions such as:

“Can you tell me more about that?” … “What else did you find frustrating? … “Was there anything else that made you angry?”

In other words, get ALL the information and details you can as a first step.

Secondly and even more importantly, moving into fixing a problem immediately can actually make the whole issue even more difficult to solve! Anger

Have you ever noticed that, if you are faced with a really angry customer, even if you can fix the problem they don’t stop acting angrily?

This is because they actually ALSO want to be heard, to be listened to, and have their upset and distress recognised and acknowledged.

What most of us are tempted to do is to leap into solving the problem without giving that recognition.

What happens then is that the customer stays angry, isn’t really prepared to listen to our solution or work with us to solve the issue, whatever it is.

We find our suggestions aren’t heard anyway, and we keep having to repeat ourselves, which can drive us nuts!

A much more effective method is to listen for and acknowledge the angry or upset feelings. Try saying something like “I understand you’re really upset about this, and I don’t blame you. Let’s see what we can do.” Or “Most people would be angry if they found that … “.

So when you are faced with a customer complaint, the first Golden Rule is LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN. Not only to the problem itself, but also to the customer’s feelings.

Include in your response a little summarising of what the customer has said, as well as acknowledgement of their angry feelings, and you’ll be amazed at how much easier dealing with customer complaints can be!


  1. The way you provide your service can have a dramatic effect on how your customers feel towards you as a business, and therefore whether they stay with you, or go elsewhere.

  2. Yes, I agree. It will certainly decide how long a person will stay in business for. :)

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