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The author of this article is Norman Murray, a highly experienced business executive who has
developed his customer service expertise on the ‘front-line’. He has won numerous awards
including most profitable, most improved store, highest turnover improvement and best
customer service in his role as Superstore Manager with Tesco, UK. He has worked as a
consultant and trainer for over 10 years and has trained delegates worldwide, including several
training assignments in the UAE.
His next training course is with Gulf Masterclasses:
‘Achieving Customer Service Excellence in a Multicultural Environment’
Emirates Concorde Hotel, Dubai 5th – 7th June 2012.
For bookings please contact: email@example.com
Customer Complaints Are Key to Customer Retention
Let’s play a game of word association. If I said: ‘Customer complaints!’ what would you say? Any
of the following?
- Customers are tricky and they are forever trying to get stuff for free.
- Some of my customers are real idiots
- Is there no end to what they will complain about?
- Why don’t they just read my email and the instructions and everything would be okay
- They only ever complain about minor stuff
- Why can’t they say anything positive
When faced with a customer complaint, how do you react?
- Tremble with fear
- Put your ‘dukes’ up...
...or adopt a Crouching Tiger-like defensive stance; or
- seek to listen and engage?
The reason I ask these questions is that how we think about customers and customer
complaints is key to how we react to them. And, what happens and how we react when first
faced with a customer complaint is hugely important in creating the lasting impression that we
make on the customer.
In reality, all a customer complaint really is is a statement of how someone has been let down
and how something or other has not met their expectations. Right?
But, it is also an opportunity for a business to respond, to listen, to show they care and to solve a
Seen like this, when a customer complains to a business it’s like giving the business a gift
(sometimes it can look and feel like it is in disguise, I admit) but it is up to the business to decide
how and if it wants to carefully open this gift to see what’s inside.
Because complaining customers are still customers... and customers who take time to complain
still have some confidence in the business. In most cases, it is less of a hassle just to take their
...to the competition, so those who do complain are showing some degree of loyalty.
At a seminar that I ran for a firm of Accountants recently on handling customer complaints
called ‘Delight from Disatisfaction’, I learnt a really simple way of handling complaints from Mark
Blackmore of Lammore.
Here it is:
L — Listening to Understand
- This step is key when trying to diffuse any tension that may come with a complaint. I am sure
that we all know that to full an argument you must be argumentative. Therefore, to listen to
someone’s concerns is key to diffusing the situation and understanding their issue.
E — Empathise and Take Responsibility
- Empathy (trying to understand their position) is different to sympathy. You need to focus on
them and understand them with phrases like ‘I can understand how that would make you feel’
and 'I can see why you feel that way' but be careful not to collude. Next, you need to accept
responsibility for the problem. It’s your problem not theirs. They are the customer.
A — Ask/Propose a Solution
- Once, you have developed an understanding of the situation and the customer knows that you
have taken responsibility of the problem you are now in a position to come up with a concrete
plan/solution proposals to remedy the situation.
D — Deliver on the Promise
- Finally, this is the most important part as it will define the lasting impression that you will leave
with the customer. Always do what you say you are going to do when you say you will do it. Be
true to your word. It’s personal for them so make it personal for you.
So, when faced with a complaint try using the LEAD method. It works really well.
I hope you find this method helpful. However, I’m always interested in learning more, simple
ways of handling complaints. What methods do you use?