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ARTICLESManagement & Service


Every company wants to know where it stands in terms of its performance and service. It appoints agencies to interview customers and receive feedback. While this is essential and helps improve, there is another sure shot method by which one could improve. Here customers voluntarily give feedback and wish to see you improve. They are your loyal customers. They are your best friends. They are your customers who complain.

Normally we are expected to do a good job and we do it - and people tend to take that for granted. What they really remember is what we did for them when something went wrong. Imagine a satisfied customer who thanks and walks away as against a dissatisfied customer converted to a satisfied customer who thanks and walks away. Survey shows that 70% of complaining customers come back if their problem is solved in their favour. 95% continue doing business if the problem is resolved immediately. In all certainty a satisfied complainer will relate to at least 10 people about his experience and how it was resolved.

A customer who complains is your best friend for, with his complaint he is giving you a second chance to provide service and satisfaction. He is showing willingness to continue relationship if his problem is solved. All you need to do is, turn a complaint to compliance. Every complaint turned compliance gives opportunities to strengthen customer loyalty as they continue to do business with you than desert to a competitor.

Criticism from customers is more valuable than praise. Normally praise limits your growth as it gives the impression that you are good. Hence, it retards you from further improvement. Complaints on the other hand point out areas that need improvement. It gets you thinking about what you could do better and gives you that opportunity to do so.

Take every complaint seriously as, seeing it from the customers point of view you will realise that there is no such thing as a small complaint. You may pride on a defect ratio of 1 to every 100 pieces but, for the customer who complains about that 1 piece it is 100% defective and you would not want him to talk about or display that piece to others.

If you wish to improve and know from customers your performance, then make it easy for them to complain. Over time you will realise that while soliciting complains you are also receiving suggestions for improvement. These are first hand ideas coming to you unasked. They are free gifts from customers.

If an organisation receives virtually no complaint, it is not an indication that you are doing well and that you have the best product, service and workforce. It is far more likely that the few complaints you receive are the tip of the iceberg. Statistics show that only 4% of dissatisfied customers tell us, 96% tell others. It is hence imperative to study your customers more closely.


Though considered a dirty job, successfully handling complaints is an art. While organisations adopt various techniques in handling complaints, they all follow a general pattern.

When you see a customer all red in the face charging towards you ready to spew, the first thing to remember is to stay calm yourself. Condition your thoughts with the fact that he is upset with something in the organisation. Do not take it personal. No matter what caused the problem don't blame others or make excuses. This will only aggravate the situation. While systems and technology would have taken excellent care of him, a problem on hand warrants a person who will listen to him and understand him. Do that and furthermore put yourself in his shoes and empathise with him. This helps him to let out his grievance. Be earnest and listen attentively as you would have to record what the customer is telling. Reiterate his grievance to confirm you've got it right. Apologise on behalf of the company, propose a solution and get his acceptance. If he does not like your proposal ask him what he would like as a fair settlement. In most cases a customer wants his problem taken care of. He wants the cause of his dissatisfaction to be addressed. He is hence reasonable and also justified with a satisfactory solution.


The turning point of converting dissatisfaction to satisfaction can be achieved when you respond quickly and constructively to his complaint. Furthermore the magic lies in surprising him by giving something more than what he asked for. 'Sir, we will replace it and also deliver at our cost.' 'Sir, while we will fix it, we would request you to accept a 15% special discount on your next purchase.' 'Sir, sorry for the mix-up, here are the burgers as per your order and a free salad compliments from us.' Doing something more than expected works as a reward for complaint. It also delights him. This helps elicit customer feedback that, if seen in the right perspective is to your advantage.

A follow-up helps reconfirm your concern for his satisfaction. Finally never let the customer lose face. Do not tell him he is wrong or get into an argument. Sometimes customers know that there is nothing you can do about it. All they want is for someone to hear them out and respect their point of view. And that is not asking for too much. While the outcome of a complaint is important, your approach towards handling a complaint plays a vital role in maintaining satisfaction.

While all employees should be trained on handling complaints, an organisation can convert them to their maximum advantage when the top management, chief executive or the owner himself gets involved in streamlining complaints towards better customer satisfaction and business success.



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