Dec 7, 2020 • Podcast

How should salespeople handle customer complaints?

On this episode, Paul provides four tips when handling customer complaints.

Show Notes

Customer complaints are opportunities!

“Most customers don’t actually complain.” (But your best customers do.)

You become the CEO of the customer’s problem.

Ask the question “why” ____ times to get to the root cause.

“When a customer complains and then they’re satisfied, they actually become ….”

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How should I handle customer complaints?

(Transcribed from podcast)

We have a question that came from the website. This question comes from Tabitha. So, just as a reminder, make sure you visit, fill out the question form, and I’m going to turn it into a show. This is proof positive.

Tabitha asked us a question about salespeople and how to handle customer complaints. I didn’t get much background on any type of complaints that Tabitha might be experiencing, but her basic question is this: How should salespeople handle customer complaints? That’s what we’re going to focus on on today’s show.

Before we get into that, a quick shout-out to our sponsor, Andrea, over at The Creative Impostor Studios. We’re zeroing in on the 100th episode and the show continues to grow. It’s in over 60 countries, and a large part of it is because [of] Andrea and her team helping from the very beginning, crafting the show, the platform, getting everything ready. If you were thinking of starting a podcast, Andrea is your go-to guide for everything that you will need as you start out. Please, reach out to her. We’re going to have a link to Andrea’s website on this episode’s webpage, so make sure you check it out.

Also, in our fourth edition of Value-Added Selling, we have a whole section on supporting the customer. This is a defensive selling strategy, and I’m going to share a couple of ideas and tips from the book. For a complete guide, make sure you pick up your latest edition. It’s available wherever you get books. Amazon’s probably the easiest. Pick up your latest edition of Value-Added Selling.

Let’s get back to that question: How should salespeople deal with customer complaints? Customer complaints are not really complaints, they’re opportunities. And I’ll explain more on that in just a few moments. But remember that these complaints are not just complaints, they are opportunities.

Before we get into answering the question, though, it’s important to realize that customer service is critical. In fact, there was a Bain and Company study that found that a customer is four-to-six times more likely to leave a company because of bad service versus price, or even product failure. Think about that for a moment, customers will deal with a product that fails; they’ll deal with higher prices, but what they absolutely will not deal with is bad service. Now, the challenge we face as salespeople is, we don’t always know if the customer is completely dissatisfied. The reason why is most customers don’t actually complain.

There was one McKenzie and Company study I found. It showed that only 3 percent of customers actually will complain when they have, kind of, a minor annoyance or something like that. It’s because people just don’t make the effort to call and complain. They’re not going to worry about if it’s a minor annoyance. And so, if you think about it, your customers that complain, they’re really your best customers. They’re letting you know something is wrong because most of your customers will not. And in fact, one way to think about that statistic, if only 3 percent of customers complain— Tabitha, think about this. I want you to think about the reason you got a complaint call it in the first place. Now there’s a good chance that 33 other customers had the same experience and they just didn’t tell you about it. That’s the scary part about customer service is that we just don’t know. No news doesn’t always mean good news.

Let’s get back to it. Tabitha, you want to know how you should handle the complaint? I’m going to give you guys four tips—four tips as you handle this complaint. The first tip: own the problem. When a customer calls and they complain, it might not be your fault. It might not even be the company’s fault. You need to own the problem. Nothing frustrates customers more than when a company will not admit or take fault, or people just won’t take ownership of it. And so, when a customer calls in and you are the salesperson that takes that call and you field the complaint, you are now the CEO of that problem. Meaning, you are the one that has to ensure that it is taken care of. So, demonstrate ownership. Let the customer know, “This is our problem. I’m sorry this happened. We are going to fix it.” Apologizing. Admit that, “Hey, we’ll take it on. It’s us.” Let the customer know that you’re going to take care of it. And the best way to do that is to tell them, “Hey, I’m going to own this. This is on us. We’re going to fix it.” Step number one, you’ve got to own the problem.

Step number two: this one can be a little more challenging. Let the customer vent. When you’re talking to the customer and you let them know, “Hey, we’re going to take care of this. We’re going to fix this,” they might feel the need to continue talking. They might feel the need to vent out their frustration. And this is a good thing. And this can happen in all aspects of our life. When you’re able to vent just a little bit and let it out, let people know what you think, what you feel, you feel better afterwards. You let out all those emotions. It actually feels better. So that’s not a bad thing, right? The second piece, just let them vent; let them rant. Whatever they need to do. They’re going to feel better afterwards. So, you’re going to let them vent.

Next thing you’ve got to do—tip number three—you’ve got to get to work conducting a failure analysis. Step number three, conduct a failure analysis. That means you have to assess the problem. Whatever they’re complaining about, whatever the reason [they’ve] called for, you’ve got to conduct a failure analysis and figure out why this happens.

You can do this in a couple of different ways. You can ask the question why five times. Ask the question why five times, and that will help you get to the root-cause of the issue. You know, Tabitha, I’m going to give an example. Let’s say your customer called you because they didn’t get their order on time. We want to own the problem. Say, “Hey, I understand that’s frustrating. That’s our fault. We’re going to figure out what’s going on.” Let the customer vent if they need to vent.

Then, we need to get to work. Let the customer know, “I’m going to figure out what’s going on and I’m going to report back to you.” Conduct a failure analysis. Ask why this happened five times. Why did the customer miss the shipment? That’s the first question you ask yourself. Then you need to get other people involved, maybe your shipping department, whoever it is, ask them why as well. Get them involved. Once you figure out that first question why—Why did they miss the shipment? “It could be because we didn’t process the order in time.” Okay. Second why—Why didn’t you process the order in time? “Well, because we got backed up. We were too busy because of current events.” Okay. Why did that happen? “Well, we’re not staffed properly.” Okay. Now we’re getting closer to the root-cause. Why are we not staffed properly? “Well, because nobody’s hiring anyone.” Maybe now that’s the root-cause. And granted, that’s just a general example, but you get the point. The point is we’ve got to figure out why this happened. And how you can do that is ask why five times. Get to the root-cause of that issue.

Next thing, you’ve got to detail your plan of attack. Once a customer complains and you let them vent, and then you figure out what the core issue is, report back to the customer and explain to them how you’re going to fix it for the future. This part is critical because now you are demonstrating to the customer that you care, that you took their feedback, their complaints, and you turned it into something positive. There’s a great book, I don’t know if I mentioned this on previous podcasts. It’s by a guy named John Goodman. The book is called Strategic Customer Service. (It’s not the Roseanne John Goodman. Different John Goodman.) But anyway, great book. And one of his studies in his book, he found that when customers complain, and they’re satisfied by the resolution of the complaint, they actually become 30 percent more loyal to you. Think about that for a moment. When a customer complains and then they’re satisfied, they actually become more loyal to you.

That’s why complaints are opportunities. That’s why service failures are opportunities. We don’t need to view these as, “Oh boy. They’re never coming back to us again.” Instead, we view them as opportunities to build loyalty with our customers.

All right folks. That’s the show for today. Again, just a quick recap.

When a customer complains, number one, own the problem. Number two, make sure that you let the customer vent. Number three, conduct a failure analysis. And number four, detail your plan to fix it.

Make it a big day.

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