Monday, January 5, 2015

Don't Avoid Customer Complaints. Manage Them.

Shep Hyken , a customer service expert, professional speaker and New York Times bestselling business author, has graciously agreed to share this impressive article published last month. Be sure to click on the links within the article. They lead to even more great articles! Learn and enjoy! -Andrea


It is typical that most companies want to create a customer service experience that doesn't give their customers anything to complain about. Well, it's not a matter if the customer will ever have a complaint. It's when the customer will complain.

Furthermore, the concept of complaint avoidance isn't about trying to be perfect and never having a customer complaint. For the purpose of this lesson, it's about avoiding reality. In other words, it's about turning your head from mistakes, problems and complaints - acting as if they aren't there.

Let's discuss two types of complaint avoidance.

The first is the potential complaint. This is a complaint that hasn't yet happened. It's there, just waiting to be discovered. You know about it, but choose to look the other way away and, for whatever the reason, you don't deal with it. It could be due to fear, laziness or apathy. It doesn't matter what the reason is. Avoiding the problem doesn't make it go away. Instead, you must seize this as an opportunity to step up and fix the problem before it becomes a complaint. You may have noticed a glitch or problem in your system. It may be an error on a report. It may be that you found out that your customer's shipment won't arrive on the date promised. Regardless of whatever the problem may be, rather than avoid it, manage it. Determine the issue, how it happened and what you can do to fix it. Communication becomes important. Be proactive. If there is a customer that needs to be informed, then inform them before they inform you. And by the way, that includes your internal customers as well. They depend on your good work, just as the customer does.

The second is simply avoiding the customer's complaints. Dodging phone calls or not responding to emails and hoping that the customer will just stop complaining and go away. Not dealing with the complaint may escalate it to become worse than it is. And, in some cases, the customer may actually stop complaining. They may even go away ... permanently. I'm not a psychologist, but I believe this is considered passive-aggressive behavior, aggressively deciding to passively avoid the issue.

In either situation, the reality is that there is a problem. It has either the potential to become a complaint or already is a complaint. Either way, it must be dealt with. So, here are three simple thoughts about managing versus avoiding customer complaints.

1. Be proactive. Deal with a potential problem or complaint as quickly as possible.

2. It may or may not be your fault. Either way, you must demonstrate an attitude of accountability to choose to own it.

3. Don't just fix the problem. In the process, work to restore confidence. Prove that the customer made the right decision to do business with you.

Shep Hyken may be reached via (314) 692-2200 or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter @Hyken.

Extraordinary Events is an international meeting and event planning and production firm based in Los Angeles, California. To learn more, visit or contact Andrea Michaels via


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