I need to say right up front, that most people who complain have a legitimate reason to do so and we should actively welcome customer complaints.

However, sometimes it is just not possible to reach agreement with or appease a dissatisfied customer or client. You should always be alert to the following.

The Manipulator

Everyone would like something for nothing given the chance, but most of us stop short of deliberate scheming. Those who are clearly out to complain to get freebies – meals, vouchers, tickets – need firm handling, otherwise they go away and tell their friends to try the same trick. They could put you out of business.

The Noisy One

Plenty of volume, fist thumping, table banging, bulging veins, but no real cause for complaint. Sounds familiar?

These people just want to be heard. They’ve got a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Take them away from the crowd, sit them down (it’s harder to get angry then), stay in control and if all else fails say, ‘I’m not prepared to listen until you stop shouting’. If need be, call for back-up.

Techniques for Special Situations:

Chronic Complainers

Some people (less than 10%) complain out of habit. It’s a behavior pattern they have learned. You can see them coming, again and again. The rules are simple.

• Be patient – don’t give them real cause to complain about your attitude.

• Ask closed questions, keep dialogue to a minimum.

• Stick to the point. 

Some managers call their bluff.

Well Mr. Davis. I am really sorry you are yet again unhappy with our service. Perhaps you would like to try … on the High Street.’

This often stops them in their tracks.

In Summary – Drawing the Line

Every company will draw its own boundaries, but some general guidelines used by many businesses include:

• Threats of violence – physical and verbal

• Abuse – swearing, shouting

• When nothing seems to be acceptable

• When reason doesn’t prevail

• When you correct the problem, but then there’s always something else …!

• When it’s clear your customer is out to abuse the system

Some customers aren’t worth having. They are bad business. Don’t be frightened about losing them, providing you are certain that you have been fair, acted with integrity and endeavoured to obtain a “win-win” conclusion.

At the end of the day, customers expect us to deliver the “Five Rights”:

The right product
At the right price
Delivered to the right place
At the right time
In the right way

Not too much to ask for, is it?