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David FullerWhat would you do if you woke up one morning and right there on your Facebook page, for the whole world to see, was a complaint about how terribly one of your staff members was treating customers?

Customer complaints are nothing new. In the past when customers received poor service from you or your staff, they verbally told their friends.

Now, thanks to social media, they can tell the world and in many cases, the world listens.

This is exactly what happened to a woman who called me last week stressed because one of her employees was going rogue. The world was learning about how badly they could be treated if they crossed the threshold of her establishment.

It’s easier than ever for disgruntled customers to complain about poor service, bad products or even policies they don’t like.

You don’t even have to be a customer to raise a fuss about a business and try to ruin its reputation. A few years ago, people halfway around the globe were trying to discredit my business on social media.

Complaints about your business should be a good reason to stop and wonder if you’re in the wrong. If customers didn’t tell us what they disliked about the business, how could we progress?

When we listen to what our clients tell us, it gives us the opportunity to improve on aspects of our organizations that perhaps we haven’t noticed. Yet far too often we brush off those complaints until they blow up in our face or hit social media.

The woman who called recently told me she had known for a while that one staff member wasn’t ideal. She said this staff member upset customers in the past and some left in a huff after encounters with her.

However, the owner chose to ignore the issue because it was hard to find employees and she needed to take holidays.

I get that it can be difficult to find great staff. But when we compromise our values for short-term gain, we risk everything we’ve invested in building our business.

Dealing with customer complaints isn’t rocket science.

In 30 years of business and millions of transactions, I’ve had to deal with hundreds of customers who took issue with something they didn’t like about a product or service they received.

In 99 percent of the cases, the customers are right. Either the product didn’t work or the service was substandard. Customers spent hard-earned money in our establishments and expected us to live up to our promise of customer satisfaction.

Most people don’t want to make a big fuss about nothing. Complaining takes energy and while some will complain more than others, most people only raise issues when they’re seriously upset.

They key to dealing with upset customers is compassion. What customers want more than anything is someone to listen to their complaints. When we take the time to truly get to the root of the issue and actually listen to the customer, in most cases we can understand why they’re frustrated and then deal with that frustration.

In 99 percent of cases, customers are realistic. They know there are limits to what you can do in your business to make things right.

One solution is simply asking your customers what a reasonable resolution to the problem would be. What is it they expect?

I’ve been surprised when I’ve asked. In many cases, they simply want to bring it to your attention. They don’t want money or you to fire the employee who caused them grief. They want you to hear what they’re saying.

In other cases, they want a replacement, reimbursement or a resolution concerning product or service issues. Again, it’s not brain surgery you’re performing. You’re simply making it right.

Recently I had a complaint with Telus about how they offered a service to new customers but not existing customers. The staff member I was dealing with didn’t have the power to resolve the issue. However, when someone higher up heard my complaint, they made it right.

Being courageous enough to root out troublesome issues for our customers, making it right for them, ensures longevity and success for our businesses.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. Complaint about this column? Email [email protected]

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