Turning Around Customer Complaints


No one likes customer complaints. Ultimately, though, every company has to face complaints head-on in order to stay in business.

A great number of studies have shown that it’s not the complaints that cause customers to leave for good, it’s the way that the complaint are handled. Research shows that between 70 and 90 percent of customers are willing to do business with you again if you can successfully resolve their issue the first time around.

To handle complaints effectively, you need to develop a companywide customer service protocol so that you can stay consistent. It’s always a good idea to use the CARP system, a method of dealing with unhappy clients that was developed by Canadian customer-service consultant Robert Bacal. CARP stands for:

  • Control the situation. If the customer is upset or hostile, try to defuse that anger.
  • Acknowledge the dilemma. Use empathy and active listening to show the customer you understand why they’re upset.
  • Refocus the conversation. Make a transition from negative feelings to actually dealing with the situation.
  • Problem-solve. Suggest possibilities, exchange information, and offer choices. Follow through on fixing the problem so that the customer leaves happy.

If you use these four simple steps, you can turn an unhappy customer into a loyal advocate of your brand.

You should also always monitor the recurrence of issues. If you are receiving the same complaints repeatedly, this is a telltale sign that it’s likely a more prevalent problem than you realize, especially considering the fact that only 4% of unhappy customers ever take the time to report an issue. Taking action on this kind of data can help you prevent problems in the future.

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