Small business owners give their employees the necessary training to do their jobs, but often fail to prepare them for the most important aspect--the customer. Leaving employees ill-equipped to handle customer dissatisfaction is like sending firefighters out with squirt guns. Here are the 4 Keys to Handling Complaints and Escalated Customer Calls.


A lot of business owners take the position “the customer’s always right”, and use common courtesy to smooth over any situation . . . that’s one way. But a more effective way is to do your research on customer service in your industry. Is there a standard that exists? What are your competitors doing? Figure out what your own customer service policy is, and write it down. Make sure that you spend time explaining this policy to your employees. Acting out possible scenarios will help make sure they fully understand how to deal with customer complaints.


When your policy is established, there should be no question of what to do when complaints arise. Customers will certainly appreciate a swift and active response. Stick to your plan, and execute it. Determine what the problem actually is by gathering the evidence and information. Separating the “problem” from the “person” takes all the emotional rhetoric and exaggeration out of the problem while you attempt to solve it. Think about your goals, and what you hope to accomplish by the end of the complaint or phone call. Keep in mind how you want the call to end and how you can take the call on a journey to that resolution.


Never assume or prejudge employees or customers before you get the facts. Allowing customers to express themselves completely is half the battle. Failing to listen thoroughly, and allow the customers to share exactly what their issue is prevents the problem from ever being resolved. The customer can become impossible to please if their only real goal is to tell their side of the story. Hearing their concerns and responding with an acknowledgement that you heard and understand, gives you permission to share how best to handle the situation.


It’s never a bad idea to follow your suggested solution with a request for the customers’ opinion. How do they think the problem should be handled? What can you do to retain their valued relationship and favorable opinion of you, the company, and your policy? Depending on their response, the customer may do a better job at conflict resolution than anticipated. Keeping them a part of the resolution process, allows them to walk away with an added sense of compensation.