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How to Handle Customer Complaints

How to Handle Customer Complaints

The fact that people express their emotions via a complaint (however angry and negative the expressions of these emotions may be initially) is actually a very real attempt to communicate that they would like to make things different (and usually get things back to ‘normal’). It also signals that they genuinely care enough to complain and hope that their public expression of a grievance will make a difference. Hence, it can be said that most of the time, a complaint is an open attempt to help an organization to address a problem and not a gratuitous attack designed to elicit a negative response.

A ‘best practice’ organization should ideally aim to both promote the need for, and widely distribute, feedback received from its customers (compliments and complaints) in order to utilize this prime catalyst towards improvement. Unfortunately, a much more common approach is to see all feedback as an unnecessary and even unhelpful commentary upon organizational strategy and practice. In these situations, compliments (where they are received) are therefore often buried and/or not publicized at all and complaints are often seen as an irritant. This means that they should be either dealt with as quickly as possible (commonly in quick fix or off-hand ways) or even completely ignored (through a variety of bureaucratic and blocking tactics).

The “antidote” to the “ignore” or “bury” the feedback approach is to ensure that all customer comments are actively welcomed at all levels and become a fundamental part of the “culture” of the enterprise. The culture of an organization typically reflects the unwritten rules and standards about the way that things get done at all levels, or perhaps more simply how people should generally behave (in terms of what is perceived as acceptable practice). Given this, all customer feedback (good and bad) needs to be openly accepted and quickly acted upon in positive ways. In this regard, it is critical that no one individual feels that it is acceptable to ignore complaints or pass them off as some other person’s responsibility.

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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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