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3 Dumb Things You Should Never Say to a Complaining Customer

By: Elaine Fogel


Let’s be honest. It’s tough to hold yourself together when a customer is upset and complaining. There’s a natural tendency to get defensive and say things on the spur of the moment.

Big Mistake!
The first things that pop into your mind come from an emotional response, not an intellectual one. So, if you’ve ever heard yourself say any of these 3 dumb things, don’t fret! Read ’em, forget ’em, and never use them again!
1. “None of our other customers have complained.” (Ouch)
What message does this send? It implies that the customer is an anomaly, a complainer, and a pain in the ass, and has unrealistic expectations. In other words, “Everyone else is satisfied, so why aren’t you?”
This will work against you very quickly. It will incense many customers and they’ll get even angrier and more frustrated.
Research shows that a very small percentage of customers will ever contact you to complain. Instead, they’ll quit or never come back and you may never know why. They may use excuses that won’t paint the real picture and you’ll go on in ignorant bliss.
These complaining customers are a gift to your business. It’s very likely that they represent others who will NOT tell you how they feel. So, listen up!
2. “I’m sorry, but that’s our policy (or NOT our policy).”
What message does this send? It says that your company is inflexible and unwilling to accommodate its customers.
This is especially egregious for small and medium-sized companies. If customers wanted inflexible policies and up-the-wazoo rules, they’d have patronized a corporation. (I know, that was low.)
The reason many customers use smaller businesses is because they expect BETTER, more personalized service. You don’t want to cut them off at the knees without a real conversation.
That doesn’t mean that you should agree to every request or complaint—especially the ones that can put you out of business. But, it does mean that you should try to accommodate customers as best as you can. Ask questions like:
  • How can I correct this situation for you?
  • Is there anything I can do to resolve this for you?
  • What would be an acceptable solution for you?
3. I’m sorry, but …. (give internal excuses as to why your company disappointed customers).
I’m sure you’ve heard these many times before. The shipment was late… we’re short-staffed today … that employee is on vacation… our computers were down… I can leave a message for the employee who looks after that…
The bottom line? Customers couldn’t give a hoot what your internal problems are! They want their products and/or services!
Don’t burden them with unnecessary internal details. Solve their problems NOW without excuses!
And, never… I mean never… make them wait long before returning their inbound phone calls, e-mails, or messages. That will really tick them off!
So, there you have it. Avoid these three “dumb” things and develop a list of what to say to complaining customers before they complain. Make a list of giveaways, discounts, or make-up gifts you can offer to smooth things over and empower your team to use them as necessary.
Better yet, bring someone in to do a training workshop for all employees, including senior management. Collaborate with the trainer/consultant to develop a customer service standards manual that includes your company protocols for handling complaints. Add a complementary employee incentive and reward program to keep customer orientation top of mind always.
Everyone plays a role in serving external customers and ensuring that internal processes are customer focused.
Do you have any other “dumb” things one should never say to a complaining customer?
This article was originally published by Elaine Fogel
Published: June 11, 2015

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