The anxiety free customer complaints process

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The word complain in the Cambridge Dictionary means: “To say that something is wrong or unsatisfactory”.

The truth is, most customers don’t like to complain. Most customers would prefer to slip away quietly rather than take the time and find the words, to convey their dissatisfaction. Slipping away is easier to do if customers can access what you offer, elsewhere.

Customers of every business want easy. Easy to access your products and services and easy ways to tell you how to make it easier. Easy, easy easy - your customers want easy.

I’m one of those customers. I will ‘vote with my feet’ if a business doesn’t value me enough to make it easy for me to do business with them. I'll walk out the door and spend their income elsewhere - probably their competitor.

And although I am "one of those customers", I'm also pretty forgiving. I know that businesses can't do everything my way, but if they expect me to complain before they learn about my needs, narh - not interested. If their competitor is proactive and asks for me to share my insights, I'll hang around there. If their competitor also rewards me for my feedback, I'll become an unpaid member of their marketing department; I'll tell everyone I know how easy it is to communicate with that business.

How do we get customers to complain in a way that leaves staff and customers feeling valued and respected?

Try these 5 steps:

1. Change your perspective. Customers who complain only bother because they want or need you to help them. Asking for help is a compliment. Compliments are good.

2. Change the word from complain to suggest.  Customers will be more likely to share real thoughts and feelings when asked to suggest improvements. Making a suggestion is less confrontational than being asked to make a complaint.

3. Set up an improvement suggestion system. Throughout the year, ask customers to suggest 1 way to improve. Don’t make it a complicated process as no-one (or very few customers) happily complete feedback forms UNLESS you prove you read and value the effort AND there is something in it for them. Consider offering a discount or gift in return for written feedback. Customer feedback is business gold – treat it with respect.

4. Thank customers for their suggestions. Let staff and customers know when you make improvements that were the direct result of a customer suggestion. Do this via social media shout outs, emails or newsletters. As soon as you show you value suggestions, you’ve made it Ok for customers to “complain.”

5. Read Chapter H in my book “The A- Z of Service Excellence.” Shameless self-promotion I know, but it contains is an easy to implement 4-step LEAD process. The process includes how to professionally handle customers whose complaint behaviour is less than polite.

How you and your team respond to customer feedback and improvement suggestions (previously known as complaints) confirms if your business is professional and worthy of customers time and money. Make it easy for customers to complain and you will make it easy for staff to embrace complaints.


Good customer service is treating customers how YOU would like to be treated but Excellent customer service is treating customers how THEY would like to be treated.

By Cate Schreck – Author of The A-Z of Service Excellence.

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