Committed To Your Customer? Prove It When They Complain!

Larry Galler

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Businesses like to brag in their advertising about quality of work, commitment to their customers, and excellent service. These statements are also proudly advanced in Mission, Vision, and Values Statements. They are foundational to success.

But, let’s face it we all occasionally make misteaks (misspelling intentional) and, even in the best of companies, anger a loyal customer. If we are lucky, we have built up enough “satisfaction-equity" with miffed customers that they will take the time and effort to complain, giving us the opportunity to correct the situation instead of them just silently defecting to the competition.

It makes no difference if the complaint is justified or not (customers make misteaks also!), but when a customer complains, realize they are offering the company a chance to continue the relationship and save a customer by backing up all those claims of commitment with an immediate, polite, and satisfactory response.

Let’s assume the complaint is unjustified and the customer is dead wrong. You are in a position of potentially losing a customer without having done anything wrong so better respond fast. Respond by thanking the customer for bringing the matter to your attention and politely explain the customer’s incorrect perception of error. Offer, a “thank you for your loyalty" extra service, coupon, or partial refund just to help induce the customer to return. After all, the complaining customer is giving you the opportunity to woo them back.

On the other hand, if the complaint is justified and you are in error, think of this as a real opportunity to prove your mettle. If the error is systemic, change the system to insure this error will not happen again and notify the customer about the new procedure. If the error is just a dumb mistake, apologize profusely. In either case, offer inducements to right the wrong, and follow-up. If you sincerely work to apologize and explain the situation that caused the problem, reasonable people who have been satisfied in the past, will give you a second chance when you prove your commitment.

Larry Galler coaches and consults with high-performance executives, professionals, and small businesses since 1993. He is the writer of the long-running (every Sunday since November 2001) business column, “Front Lines with Larry Galler" Sign up for his free newsletter at Questions??? Send an email to


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