©, 2008 -



Learn to provide options for those customers with complaints. Learn not to take customer complaints at a personal level. Understand that a complaining customer is a valuable tool for evaluating your customer service.
We have saved this subject for last. Not because it is least important but because you will have fewer complaints as an employee if you can learn from all of the previous lessons how to provide good customer service. Nevertheless, as you provide excellent customer service there will be times when customers have complaints. Some complaints may be related to your behavior but in most cases a complaint is related to something else. Most complaints relate to a problem with the product or inadequate service. Handling complaints is extremely important to a business. One reason for this is, when a product or service proves to be unsatisfactory, only a small percentage of your customers will return to report it. By treating these customers in a special manner you strengthen their loyalty. Complaints also help in finding areas where your company falls short. If none of your unhappy customers ever complained you would never know why they never returned to do business.
The number one rule for you to remember about customer complaints is this: Do not take it personally! When a customer is unhappy and they are addressing the problem to you, it is only natural for you to assume a feeling of guilt. Whenever two people interact verbally it is impossible to ignore the fact that personalities become intertwined throughout the discussion. This cannot be avoided. You may also take the complaint personally if you feel as if you are a true part of the company you represent. Those who have strong feelings for their company are the first to take complaints at a personal level.

Seldom will a complaint be a result of anything you have done if you are practicing good customer service. Keep that in mind while dealing with unhappy customers. They are not complaining about you. They are usually complaining because they have spent money that they worked hard to earn and they feel as though they did not receive what they expected. And, in most cases, a complaint is justified. Only a small percentage of people get their enjoyment from complaining to a company about its products. So, take the complaint seriously but not personally.

When you handle a complaint you have to handle your emotions like a police officer. If you have ever been pulled over by a police officer you may have noticed that he or she handles the situation very calmly. They don't jump out of their patrol car, come running up to your car, scream and holler at you, saying something like, "What's wrong with you, you stupid idiot! Are you blind or something? Didn't you see that speed-limit sign back there? I can't believe you even passed your driver's test!"

When a police officer pulls someone over he or she walks calmly up to your car window and asks to see your driver's license. They stay calm while they ask you questions relating to the situation. They calmly listen to your reply to each question. Finally, they explain what you have done and how it will be handled by the law. During all of this time, you may be very upset and nervous but the police officer appears to be very relaxed. That's how you need to handle customer complaints. Keep in mind that the customer, at this point, is probably very emotional. You must not become emotionally involved. You must be as calm as if you were a police officer.

As the customer explains their problem you should calmly listen without interrupting. If you must ask any questions, wait until the appropriate time and then calmly listen, without interrupting, as the customer answers. Finally, after all of the details have been covered and it is your turn to provide assistance, choose your words carefully.

Here is a principle I discovered years ago as a school teacher. When it was time to discipline a student I always gave him or her an option of at least two choices. For instance, they could stay after school for 30 minutes, or, write a paper explaining what they had done wrong and why it was wrong. When a person is provided a choice it works the same as if we are changing the subject in a conversation. The very first thought that entered my students' minds was, "Which of the two punishments is the most desirable?" That is actually a positive thought. Now the student sees two doors of escape rather than a single form of chastisement. It is a principle that really works on all people.

Always provide your customers with more than one option. You will find it radically changes their behavior. Never, never, never leave them without an option. Never say, "No, we cannot help you." Unless, of course, you wish to continue dealing with a customer who becomes more emotional as the minutes pass.

You will also meet customers who just seem to be mad at everybody and everything. There doesn't seem to be any reason for them to behave the way they do. Everything you do to brighten the situation seems to make it worse. How do you handle these kinds of customers? Remember this one thing about human beings: From the day of birth we gather information into our brain and process it in the only way we know how. As we grow, we rely on the information we have gathered and use it to make decisions as new situations arrive. For every situation we face we relate back to our mental knowledge base for guidance on how to handle the situation. Therefore, everyone has a valid reason for the way they behave. Something, or someone, somewhere in their past has caused this person to act they way they do. The person who seems to be angry at the world is probably that way because of the way the world has treated them in the past.

The first thing you need to do as a good customer service representative is to remember this truth about your customers. There is a reason for their behavior. Then, count your blessings that you have come from a more positive background. The best thing you can do for the person who seems to be negative about everything is to make them feel like they have just entered a different world. Be gentle and understanding. Empathize for a few moments and try to imagine what has caused this poor person to be this way. Listen to them as they speak. Look them in the eye and become their own personal problem solver.

There are two words in our English language that we seldom consider, yet, we live by them on a daily basis. These two words are, reacting and responding. When we react to something we are behaving according to our natural senses. Reacting is a reflex action. Whereas, responding to a situation is controlling our behavior using mental processes. The difference between responsible behavior and irresponsible behavior is determined by whether or not we are giving any thought to our behavior. If we are giving thought to our behavior we are responding. When we neglect to think about our behavior we are simply reacting.

Generally, when we deal with unhappy customers, we are dealing with someone who is reacting. They are behaving based on their feelings - and usually with good reason. They feel bad because they did not receive what they paid to receive. As a good customer service representative we must avoid reacting and practice responding. A responsible person is one who has learned to automatically respond to any situation rather than to react. They stop and think for a moment and mentally process what they are about to do, or say. The word, RESPONSIBLE, comes from the word RESPOND. A responsible person is one who responds to a situation rather than reacting to it.

Finally, all people love to hear someone apologize to them. When you deal with an unhappy customer you will resolve the issue much quicker by starting off with an apology: "I'm very sorry that this has caused you so much difficulty. How can we help you solve the problem?" Following a statement like this, listen carefully as the customer covers the details of the problem. When it is your turn to speak, provide options, thank the customer for their patience (whether they have shown patience or not) and apologize again. Customers who find that their complaints are handled with care usually become more loyal to your business than a customer who has never complained.


Over the next 24 hours strongly consider whether you are reacting or responding to each situation. Keep notes again. Also, for every situation where you encounter a person with a problem, customer or not, provide at least two options and note how well it works for you. Keep notes again.