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Complaint Handling: Negotiating Carefully with the Customer

Much of any negotiation process (whether it is over the telephone or face-to-face) is about determining the value or worth of a particular outcome or deal (especially if there is a complaint involved). If the value is pretty clear for both sides, there is no need for negotiation at all. However, in many situations it such simple clarity is rarely a part of a negotiation and the two or more negotiating parties must therefore, try to value what they want and try to guess what the other party wants in return.

In this ‘muddy’ value trading game everything we have to offer has a value. In other words, even the most trivial of items or points should be seen to have some value. It may have low or no value to you but it may have some or a lot of value to the other party without you knowing.

The key negotiating or bargaining rule is “never make a gift of any concession” or give nothing away for nothing. In addition, you ideally should adopt a reluctant conceding style as if everything that you trade is valuable and must be met with something of equal value or worth.

Ultimately, in bartering or trading with a customer (and even more so if they are a valued one), your key aim is to maximize the value of any concession that you make (e.g. this is saying “I wouldn’t do that normally but with a lot more work on my part, I suppose I could…”), while at the same time, minimize the value of concessions offered by the other party (e.g. “well, I suppose that is at least a little progress in the right direction”).  This isn’t always easy and requires high levels of credibility. Not everything can be credibly declared to be absolutely critical for you. In the same way not every concession offered by the other side is trivial or worthless – strike a careful balance.

The featured video clip is a short excerpt from the ReadyToManage, Rapid Skill Builder eLearning program, Complaint Handling: An RSB eLearning Course.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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