Turn complaints into compliments

Updated Oct 10, 2023
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Client complaints are, from time to time, a fact of life. However, complaints that are handled promptly, graciously, and effectively can become opportunities to build client respect and loyalty.

Complaints don’t have to be a win-lose proposition. Handle complaints right, and both you and the customer can win.

You can turn complaints into compliments with the following tips.

  • Encourage the client to speak their mind.  Make it easy and comfortable for a client to complain. You can only solve problems that you know about. Listen, don’t interrupt, and take notes. Listen for both the facts and the feelings.
  • Repeat the problem back to the customer.  You need to be certain you have “connected”. If the problem is clear to you both, the solution is more likely to be clear.
  • Find the point of agreement.  You can begin from there to resolve the problem.
  • Avoid taking the defensive. Instead, join the offense by taking action to resolve the client’s concern. As in team play, the offense has control of the ball.
  • Offer clear and simple solutions.  Express them the language that stresses what you can do, not what you cannot do.
  • Always apologize for the inconvenience. Regardless of who is at fault, a sincere apology will increase a client’s respect.
  • Fix the system. Locate the source of the problem and fix it permanently. Making peace for the moment will not prevent the problem from occurring again.
  • Remember that your job is to resolve the situation. It is in the best interest of the client and your company.
  • Remain professional, calm, and confident, and never make excuses.
  • Respond to complaints immediately. Your sense of urgency can be a powerful and reassuring statement to the client that will last past the situation.  
  • Keep the client informed about when and what action can be expected. Complaints, properly handled, can turn into compliments and strengthen the relationship you have with your client.

This article was written by Fred Haskett of TrueWinds Consulting, who writes a "Fridays with Fred" column on his website.

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