At Chick-fil-A, we learned that customer complaints are an excellent source of feedback.

Therefore, a customer complaint represents a colossal opportunity.

It is a shame that the opportunity usually turns into a dismal disappointment for both parties because it does not have to be that way.

Customer complaints can end with the customer walking away with a more favorable impression of the organization, and the organization can learn lessons that may prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

There is a right way and a wrong way to deal with complaints.

First, when dealing with customer complaints, I always apologize.

I find that the following procedure works best: I apologize, whether the problem is my fault or not—I have a no-fault apology policy.

I deliver the apology as if I am the only one responsible. I take responsibility, and even if the customer is wrong, mistaken, or unreasonable, I treat the customer as if he or she is right and reasonable.

Second, I never explain.

I do not give details about why something happened this way or that way. This is a good policy whether you are dealing with customers or approaching the boss about some business matter.

I do not give reasons because the customer doesn’t want to hear it.

As soon as you start to explain, the customer perceives you are attempting to defend yourself, your fellow workers, your boss, or your company.  It appears to the complainant that you are avoiding responsibility for what has happened and that you are making the customer out to be the offender, the one who has disturbed the peace.

Rather than offering a defense, I ask the customer to explain how the situation looked and felt to him or her, and then I ask for suggestions on how to avoid repeating this situation in the future.

Next, I turn the table and put the customer in charge by asking what he or she would consider a suitable response for this unfortunate situation.

I ask, “What would you like me to do?” After the customer makes a suggestion, I try to exceed expectations and do more than was asked.

Again, this is just good practice. When dealing with critical feedback, apologize, fix the problem and exceed expectations.

Leave a positive impression and you can learn from the criticism because all negative feedback is beneficial.

Perhaps you do not work in a retail situation, with the public, or with customers.  You do, however, have a boss. And if you work for a boss, the boss is your customer!  This principle works equally well with those in authority.

I have found that, like customers, the boss usually does not want an explanation. Even if the boss asks for an explanation, that is not what he or she wants. An explanation sounds defensive and evasive, neither of which the boss wants to hear.

Take responsibility, apologize, and fix the situation the way the boss likes it done.

Always Apologize, Never Explain.

Jimmy Collins

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