Gary Holt Blog

The 4 Step Method to Handle Customer Complaints

Posted by gary holt on Tue, Nov, 20, 2012 @ 14:11 PM
  • Treat people with respect. Don’t argue or yell.
  • Listen carefully before you answer.
  • Make every effort to keep promises you make.
  • If you can’t resolve the issue, say so politely and, with empathy, apologize.

When a customer feels they have been treated unfairly or that they did not receive what they expected, they will complain.

The first step to handling complaints is usually a face to face confrontation. This conversation involves talking about a problem and what can be done about it. If the basis of the conversation is based on facts then usually the end result is a positive one. Effective customer complaint handling does not include your opinions, arguing or anger. It does include listening carefully and taking notes if the problem is complex, and looking to discover if we made a promise or quality standard that we did not keep. A great way to think about the issues is with empathy – or putting yourself in the customer’s place.


Customer Service RatingWhen I was a manager for what is now Macy’s, I remember the policy was that the customer is always right. I remember an incident when I was in operations management where a customer approached me with a shopping bag from Kroger’s in her arms filled with some old clothes. She said that the clothes did not fit and she wanted her money back. I remember going through the items and seeing that none of the clothes were new but obviously had been worn for some time. I told her that it appeared that the clothes had been worn and were at least a year old and therefore we could not give her a full refund. She asked to see my boss. I got my boss and got a real surprise when he said to give her money back. He later let me know that I had not followed policy and next time I would receive a written warning. Needless to say, I didn’t do that again.

 No wonder the company’s market share and sales kept growing. Their reputation was outstanding! Sure we lost money on that deal but overall we grew. Now, I’m not saying you should go to that extreme but you might remember it’s the customer who provides the money for your paycheck and it’s a lot tougher to get a customer than to lose one. Whatever situation you run into, remember to use the 4 Step Process: 

  1. Show all people respect.
  2. Listen to what they say carefully until they get everything out.
  3. Do everything you can to keep a promise or make it right.
  4. If the problem can’t be resolved, politely apologize for the inconvenience.

Let’s give the 4 Step Process a trial run:

What complaints have you had?

How did you resolve them effectively?

What complaints were you unable to resolve?

What systems do you need to reduce the number of customer complaints you get?

Would you like to get more training for your sales staff on how to handle customer situations like the ones I mentioned and more? Then contact Holt Marketing Services to learn more about how we can work with your staff to provide the training for world class customer service.


World Class Customer Service Training He

Topics: branding, brand awareness, profitability, customer service, unique selling, customer complaints, increasing sales, more business, new customers, business success, optimization, happy customers, brand, increase profits, company branding, clients, new business, more sales, increase sales, customer issues