Effectively dealing with a customer complaint can be the difference between return business and lost business.

My family did quite a bit of travelling this holiday and it was not seamless to say the least. Now mistakes happen and when you are dealing with multi-layered services within one company I can understand how frustrating it can be to have to fix the problems created by other people or departments. However – at the end of the day the customer should not be made to pay for internal confusion and problems.

Long story short – we tried to book our seats prior to departure as we were travelling with our 16 month old daughter we needed to sit together for the 4 hour flight. After attempting to do so, being misinformed then being scolded by another employee for not pre-booking I asked to speak to a supervisor.

This was her chance to turn the situation around, give us some satisfaction and resolve the problem. Now in the end the problem was fixed and we did get seats together and when you look at the end result that is what we wanted. So… she was able to meet our needs. The problem was she did it in a way that left my wife and I feeling unsatisfied, undervalued and at the end disappointed.

Every complaint is an opportunity to exceed expectations and create fiercely loyal and repeat customers all you have to do is follow these 3 simple steps.

1. Listen. Allow the customer to be heard. Don’t interrupt. Don’t disagree. Don’t try to fix the problem. An unhappy customer needs to vent – let them. Eventually their frustration will decrease and they may even apologize for being so upset or say something like “I hate to complain.” This is perfect. They have been heard and let go of all of the negative energy created by whatever has happened.

2. Fix the problem. Often after a guest had their chance to vent and gotten to that point where they are now apologizing or saying they hate to complain you can really take the wind out of their sails by agreeing with them. What??? You read that right agreeing with an angry guest leaves them with nothing more to be upset about and they feel like they have been heard. Never “point – counter point” with a guest. It gives them reasons to get upset. Stay focused on the end result – a happy guest.

Now that they feel heard and you have disarmed them fix the problem. Keep in mind that the guest usually expects 50% of what you are willing to do. Don’t be afraid to ask them what it is they want and then do a little more. Think about this for just a minute. They ask for half of what you were willing to do then you say and I throw in a little extra. You have only given 75-80% and at the same time you have over exceeded the guest expectation. To many times we give away too much and the way we do it does not create and loyalty or satisfaction for the guest.

3. Be sincere, apologize and make them smile. Now the guest has had a chance to vent and get rid of all of their negative emotion and you have exceeded their expectation you have them right where you want them for a sincere apology and a kind word. They will be defenseless against your charms and remember what you have done for them for a long time.

Now I have to remind you that these steps must be followed in this order. Doing it in any other order will only frustrate the guest. If you try to apologize or fix the problem before they have been heard all of you work will be for not. If you listen and try to make them smile they will think that you have not taken them seriously.

Good luck and turn them around!

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