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You're unhappy. You've a valid reason to be. It's a valid complaint. Problem is, many people and many businesses, think that defending 'the reason' is a valid strategy. It's not. On the contrary, it inflames an already delicate situation and the customer is rightly weighing up your alternative.  

Friedrich Nietzsche said: "It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it: every complaint already contains revenge."  How many of us have witnessed this revenge? How many of us remember when coaching our people that "Hurt people - hurt people"

I have always defined a complaint as a customer giving you a 2nd chance. The person who is really angry has already gone. In an on-line world, his 'revenge' mode can seriously damage your business, reputation and even your health.  Here are a few classic characters we have all met. In their own way, they are offending, defending and being offensive. They may win the immediate skirmish, they certainly won't win the war.

Mr. Excuse 1 - "We Treat Everyone Equally"
You're a supplier (that also makes you a customer) You've done many favours, you went above and beyond. You helped their business when they needed you. You created a special event. You decided to do things really right. You went to the event to make sure it was right. The tickets had a hefty profit, you were pleased they sold so well. Your idea had helped them enormously and you smiled silently. The arrival of your bill for your ticket surprised you. Worse, he smiled giving it. You took it calmly, paid the bill and, without a word, listened to him say "We treat everyone equally here, no discounts even for those who helped"

Ms. Excuse 2 - "But...."
"I completely understand where you are coming from. I can see your point. I know you're annoyed" - and then it comes - "But". Of course the 'but' is irrelevant to you. It's relevant to them. It's their way of justifying why their unacceptable action is acceptable - to them. It is utterly irrelevant whether you agree or not, it's not about you, it's about them.  Next time you take steps 1,2 & 3 and begin to line up a 'but' - don't.

Mr. Excuse 3 - "The Reason We Do That Is ..."
We have 2 ears and 1 mouth and we ought to use them in that order. Sadly, many people listen only with the intent to reply. At all costs, in their book, it is not important what you say, it's terribly important what they say - at least to themselves.

You're horrified, disgusted, upset and unsettled. You complain. Even that took a lot. Calmly, you explain. Calmly you detail the facts. Calmly you avoid emotion. You pause respectfully to give them time to process the facts, your facts. Thing is, you observed the turbo charged quivering lips that were already burning rubber waiting to go. They go. You know the opening line. Your heart sinks.  "The reason we do that is ......."  Game over.

Mrs. Excuse 4 - "Well, I Never .... "
We all know the very old story of the waiter who said that nobody else complained about the fly in the soup. Yet, funnily enough, we continue to hear modern day versions.
When a response to a complaint is seasoned with a raised chin, rolling eyes, a high pitched pseudo posh tone, we know the pin is already out of the grenade. In false tones of feigned surprise it starts with "Well, in all my life, all my career and all my time here I simply have never ever heard the like ...."  Sadly, the preposterous tones convince us of the opposite and we leave with a new found purpose which is usually to spare family and friends the same dramatic fate.

Miss. Excuse No 5 - "Oh, And One More Thing....."
It was just about audible. She had it down to a perfect level. The sigh was clear enough to be heard but soft enough to be denied.  You approached her desk. The huge sign above said 'Customer Service' her body language said something else. The slow precision with which she filed her nails probably doubled as a subtle warning of the stabbing that lay ahead if you weren't compliant. After all, this was her territory and you're a rather inconvenient disturbance.

Lethargically she 'processes' your purchase and reminds you she is in control. It takes time but you get there. With a flick of her wrist she says "Sign this" You do. At least you were about to but something caught your eye. You queried it. That was fatal.  Her tone went from slow and dreary to fast and furious. You had dared question her 'Terms & Conditions'. She bit hard and two missiles were to follow. "We don't have to do business with you if you don't like them" She knows you know you've no alternative. It's late you need to get going. She breathes in the scent of victory. It's intoxicating. She's addicted, she wants more.
Humbled, you leave. Missile Number 2 is taking aim - behind your back. She slowly squeezes the trigger and the missile is launched. In tones that have been finely tuned she says "Do have a lovely evening now"

Of course there are many more complaint types and characters than those illustrated above. Each have one thing in common. It's simple. They confront the complaint rather than accept it.
It will always bring you back to the quote that I heard many years ago by Norman Vincent Peale who said;  "The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism." Isn't it worth looking at our own navel every once in a while?
Better still, realising that complaints are giving you precious information about what's wrong in your business.

Think of the opposite, a business with no complaints. That's the death knell if not the final nail.

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