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Say What? Five Quick Scripts for Responding to Customer Complaints

The last thing a customer with a complaint wants to hear you say is: “You’re wrong.” What they want to hear is that you understand them, appreciate them, and agree with them on the importance of the value they have cited in their complaint.

Here are a few quick scripts to use when responding to customer complaints:

Customer Complaint: Rude Service

Your customer says: “Your staff was rude and totally unprofessional.”

You say: “You are right to expect courteous, respectful, and professional staff.”

Customer Complaint: Too Many Rules

Your customer says: “Your policies are rigid. Your company is so bureaucratic.”

You say: “I agree that we should be as flexible and user-friendly as possible. Your suggestions can really help.”

Customer Complaint: Overpriced

Your customer says: “This product isn’t anything like what I was promised. And your price is way too high!”

You say: “I am on your side in this situation. You have a right to be satisfied with whatever you purchase from us. You deserve good value for your money. Let’s review what you have purchased and see if there’s a better option for you.”

Customer Complaint: Too Slow

Your customer says: “I’ve been waiting forever. Why did it take you so long to take my order?”

You say: “We understand that in today’s world speed counts. You deserve fast, friendly service.”

Customer Complaint: Bad Website

Your customer says: “Your website is terrible. I couldn’t find the information I needed.”

You say: “You are right to want an informative, user-friendly website. What information couldn’t you find? Your suggestions on how to improve the site are a big help.”

Notice how your responses make the customer feel right. We don’t argue over the facts: rude staff, stiff policies, or insufficient product features. But we do actively agree on the importance of what they value most.

Let’s face it—the customer is not always right. But customers are always important, and we can make them feel much better by agreeing with them on the importance of the service dimensions they identify and value.

  1. DR. RICHARD PEREIRA wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 09:41 | #1

    Hi Ron,
    I ‘actively agree’ with you wholeheartedly !! Great stuff..

  2. Akshay wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 09:48 | #2

    Yeah RON. These tips are truly very important, for as I work with clients surely they will help me. Thus I congratulate you for the fantastic job your and your team are doing.

  3. Ranjini Manian wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 10:12 | #3

    Acknowledging the value without always agreeing is a great response to complaints, thanks Ron. I will share with my team! Ranjini Manian

  4. shyam wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 12:30 | #4

    It’s a fact that disagreements can lead to disputes and more … however “agreeing to disagree” is a gentle approach to first listen to your customers and hence not to argue with them … you might lose them.
    Thanks Ron for making us realise such simple things can do wonders!!

  5. Sofyan Abdullah wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 12:47 | #5

    Thanks Ron, this helps me more understand the underlying value of handling customer complaints.

  6. Rob Tomasino wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 14:11 | #6

    Hi Ron,
    Great suggestions. Focus on the positive, be an avocate for the consumer and turn them around on how they are feeling at the time and how they will be thinking about you and your organization at a later date.

  7. ANIL VALECHA wrote on August 17th, 2012 at 16:22 | #7

    I Loved It, Ron. It’s more important to make a person feel at home. Then we mutually work out a solution. Point noted, Sir.

  8. Ramlal Pradeep wrote on August 18th, 2012 at 05:26 | #8

    Merci beaucoup Ron This will really help us to overcome guests’ complaints

  9. Alice Loh wrote on August 20th, 2012 at 02:53 | #9

    This is really eye opening to me. Now only I know we shall actively agree to complaints. Thanks so much for your tips!

  10. Kevin Boyd wrote on August 20th, 2012 at 10:37 | #10

    Hi Ron,
    This couldn’t have come at a better time. I am working very hard with my team to integrate the “service culture” concepts into our “skills based” training. All too often, I hear members of my team handling complaints in completely the wrong way… Either they deny the complaint, or they empathise too much. Just last week, one of our staff received a complain about a member of the Sales team. The employee’s response was “I totally understand… We are always trying to improve our Sales people…”
    Another area we are trying to train our staff on is how to LISTEN and ask questions before jumping into a solution. Frequently our staff THINK they know the solution when in fact, they haven’t identified the real problem. I truly enjoy the blogs on your site! They are always thought provoking, and are very helpful when designing my trainings! Thanks for the tips!

  11. Naresh Vassudhev wrote on August 21st, 2012 at 04:22 | #11

    Excellent scripts to use while dealing with dissatisfied customers. Winning propositions. Thanks Ron. Way to go.

  12. Eric Ng wrote on August 21st, 2012 at 05:10 | #12

    well done – thanks for the tips

  13. Asim Naqvi wrote on August 23rd, 2012 at 05:37 | #13

    This is really eye opening to me. Now only I know we shall actively agree to complaints. Thanks so much for your tips! n take care

  14. John wrote on August 24th, 2012 at 23:44 | #14

    Guest complained about finding bed bugs at our hotel (together with the photo). How should I respond? Hope we can have your advise soonest. Thank you very much. John

  15. Ron Kaufman (Founder) wrote on August 25th, 2012 at 07:11 | #15

    @John – this is a good example to illustrate the key point of the article. The guest complains about bed bugs (with a photo). But what the guest actually VALUES is a CLEAN hotel room to spend the night. You can make your guest “feel right” by AGREEING with him on the importance of what he values. Your reply (if written) might be structured like this:

    1. Dear Valued Guest (Use his real name, of course)
    2. THANK YOU for bringing this to me! I truly appreciate you telling me so that we can fix this right away.
    3. You are RIGHT! You expect and DESERVE a completely CLEAN hotel room every time you stay with us.
    4. We are committed to providing this for you, and this is why we have every room cleaned daily by our housekeeping staff, checked nightly turning turn-down service, and monthly with a “deep cleaning” set of additional procedures. (for example, John)
    5. The message you sent concerning your room #XXX on date DD/MM/YY is truly appreciated, as it highlights where we can and will immediately increase the frequency of our “deep cleaning” procedures, and helps us to keep absolute cleanliness at top of mind for all of our dedicated employees.
    6. Mr Guest, as a gesture of our appreciation for your valuable feeback and your continued loyalty, we have upgraded you and your family to our All Suites Floor for the next three nights of your stay with our compliments (for example). I also invite you to to enjoy an evening with your family at our gala dinner buffet on Friday evening, once again with our compliments, and our appreciation. (for example).
    7. Mr Guest, we cherish the privilege of welcoming you each time you choose to stay with us, and we look forward to welcoming you back again soon. Should you have any further comments, quesitons or suggestions to share while you are here now, or at anytime in the future, please feel free to contact me at my personal telephone (XXX-XXXX), or at this personal email address.
    8. Most sincerely yours, John the Hotel Manager

    John – this “example reply” is just that…an example. You can make it even more personalized, and powerful, by adapting it to your company, your culture and your customer. All the best to you – and to everyone who cares about Uplifting Service. Best, Ron Kaufman

    PS: There is more about this topic of “making a customer feel right” in the chapter on Service Recovery and Guarantees in my newest book, “UPLIFTING SERVICE”. You can find out more, and order it here, at http://www.UpliftingService.com

  16. Tucker M wrote on September 5th, 2012 at 16:46 | #16

    I think we can agree that no one enjoys dealing with customer complaints! Also, it is important to keep in mind that a customer service representative who handles a disgruntled customer’s situation favorably will earn that same customer’s return business 7 times out of 10.

  17. Zaima Muhammad wrote on April 5th, 2013 at 14:15 | #17

    Hi Everyone.

    Good tips for me which will help start my new career in handling customers complaints in the airline industry. Many people said it was a stressful job, but with these tips will help me lots. I’ll apply them in my new workplace. Keep on smiling.

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