Complaints Can Lead To Sales, Here’s How

Written by Sean McPheat | Linkedin thumb

Businessman talking phoneNo matter how well you’ve done your job, there will always be things that are outside of your control. Things that would drive your customer mad. Things that would make them annoyed. And things that simply add up to bad service.

Complaining customers can be a nightmare, but if handled correctly, can actually give you quality feedback.

Disgruntled customers tell you what they think and feel. And this kind of feedback helps you to see what everyone REALLY thinks about you and your company.

Think about it; how many ‘satisfied’ customers do you hear from? I mean, how many customers proactively call you up or write to you and say ‘I’m satisfied with the quality of goods and services you have offered me”?

I wager not many! But you normally will get some kind of feedback if the customer has cause for complaint. Here are some tips on dealing with those situations you might wish would disappear into thin air.

Firstly, take responsibility. Passing the buck will not only cheese them off even more, but adds to the perception that you don’t care about them or their situation.

A complaint is simply that…a situation that needs attention. The customer doesn’t care who does something. They just want it handled, and handled NOW!

Then, follow this checklist:

* Really listen to what they have to say. When someone is emotionally charged, they tend to not think rationally, so how they say things (as well as what comes out of their mouths) may not be immediately coherent or make sense. Don’t interrupt. Let them let off steam.

* Ask questions to completely clarify what is being said. This enables you to be specific in your summary of what the situation is. If something isn’t clear because of their vagueness or deletion of facts, ask questions to ensure you are totally clear exactly what happened.

* Summarise and confirm. Here, you rephrase your understanding of exactly what they have said and confirm that you have understood it to their satisfaction.

* Respond immediately. You may not be able to solve it straight away; instead, outline what will now happen. Something like “Right, this is what we will do, Mr Customer. I’ll make a call to our dispatch department now and see what has happened to the order. When we know more details, we can then make arrangements to sort this order. After that, we will see how we can stop this happening again”

This gives the customer confidence that you as a company are on top of this and they will see reasons to stay loyal.

* Solve it and follow up. Make sure the right people who can actually solve the situation are involved and make it happen. Then build the relationship by following up and ensuring the customer is happy with the result.

* Learn from the experience. Ask yourself, “How can we make sure this doesn’t happen again?” Do you need to change the process? Do you have to get on op of your organisation to ensure it doesn’t occur again? What can you personally do to build awareness of this within your department or team?

When you satisfy a disappointed or angry customer, your follow-up procedure can prove to them that they made the right decision to complain and they can see the power of your company in making things right.

You therefore give them many reasons to continue to be loyal to you, especially if you have built up a good relationship with them over a period of time. Remember that the customer’s perception is reality to them. This means that if they think your service is bad, then it’s bad, full stop. No amount of discussion will change that opinion. The best thing to do is acquit yourself best as you can, and give them reasons to use you again.

So, instead of thinking of complaints as real problems and challenges, see them as opportunities to get quality feedback from customers. Many customers will then see how you deal with challenges and observe your company in a different light to others.

Happy Selling!


Sean McPheat

Sean McPheat
Managing Director

MTD Sales Training | Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

450 sales questions free report

Updated on: 26 March, 2014

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