Customer Complaints Don’t Deserve Excuses

January 6, 2011

When a customer complains, never let them leave with the impression that you made excuses for the service or product failure. The best way to avoid the impression of making excuses is to focus on solving rather than explaining the problem in the presence of the customer.

When a customer complains, make sure they know you are sincere about the following:

  • You are truly sorry for the service or product failure
  • You hear and understand their disappointment, frustration, and even anger
  • You will accept personal responsibility for providing a fast and acceptable remedy to the problem

Focus first on the remedy to the immediate problem. Ask good questions to help you understand what went wrong and how you can make it right for the customer. Make sure you understand from the customer the following:

  • What were your expectations?
  • How did the service or product not meet your expectations?
  • What can I do right now to make you feel better about what happened?

Keep your explanations to a bare minimum until after the remedy for the failure is in place or in the works. If possible, let the customer explain to you why she or he thinks the failure occurred. This will give you an opportunity to agree with them before you offer more details to clarify the situation. Don’t get long winded; the more you talk, the more it will sound like an excuse in the mind of the customer.

Customer complaints are golden. Don’t tarnish a potentially valuable transaction by making excuses.

Even the best service providers screw up occasionally. I will quickly forgive you if I know you heard my complaint, fixed the bleeding, and are working to make sure the failure never happens again. An impressive recovery can more than make up for a bad failure. But if you give me the impression that you either don’t understand or have no interest in solving the root problem, I will get the clear message that despite your rhetoric you don’t really care about me. If you don’t care about me, you are living in La La Land to think that I will care about your business. You just earned the bad word-of-mouth marketing I’m fixing to give you and your business. And in the age of blogs, Facebook, and Twitter, that spreads faster and farther than ever before.

A good system of handling customer complaints has always been good business. Now, more than ever, your business won’t be able to survive without it.

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