November/December  2001

Customer Service
Carl Tompkins     tips for quality service

Handling Complaints
by Carl Tompkins

No supplier likes to hear customer complaints. Often, we take complaints personally and become defensive when learning that our company has failed to deliver on a promise. But it is worse when customers donít complain; they just leave and never come back!

So if you are lucky enough to hear the complaint, approach the situation as an opportunity. First, listen with empathy. All too often people canít wait to interrupt the customer and defend themselves. Even when your company is innocent of the complaint, customers have the right to feel the way they do. The goal of listening is to allow the customer to vent his concerns and for you to learn everything possible so that pending work to resolve the complaint is accurate and complete. 

Through good questions and listening skills, you must identify whether the complaint falls into the category of misconceptions, skepticisms, real drawbacks or real complaints.

Misconception is when some issue has been misunderstood by the customer. In this instance, you must clarify what had been discussed and agreed upon.

Skepticism is when a customer fails to trust any given situation. The solution is to prove that there is no need to be skeptical. 

Real drawbacks are the most difficult to solve. The answer is to show the big picture.

Finally, a real complaint occurs when your company has indeed made a mistake. This could be something as simple as invoicing at the wrong price. The answer is to provide real action. Outline what steps your company will take to fix the mistake and make sure the customer agrees.

Objections can occur at any moment within the relationship between suppliers and customers. Remember, when the objection is stated, it must be resolved in the mind of the customer before you earn the right to press ahead with new business. 


Carl Tompkins is Western states area manager for the Sika Corp. of Madison Heights, Mich.


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