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Practical Application: Responding to Customer Complaints

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

Customer complaints are an unavoidable part of doing business, but how complaints are handled often determine the extent of a negative impact. Is the customer truly always right?

Customer Complaint Scenario

Rashad groaned, figuratively and literally, when his cell phone rang in the middle of the night. Obviously, it meant something was wrong. The only real question was, ''How wrong?'' Tonight's call was from the night shift supervisor at one of the three large hotels for which Rashad worked as the district manager.

''What's going on?'' Rashad asked his caller. The story started about 8 p.m. last night when a customer indicated that the air conditioner in their room was not working. The on-call maintenance person arrived, implemented a small fix, and left the room. Now, at 3 o'clock in the morning, the unit had failed again, and the night shift supervisor was getting an earful from the room's irate occupant.

  • What should Rashad's priorities be at this precise moment?
  • Will those priorities be the same in the morning? Why or why not?
  • Should Rashad intervene in this situation personally? Why or why not?

Making Things Right with the Customer

Regardless of whether you think Rashad should or should not have responded directly to the customer immediately, whichever manager is speaking with the customer will have to provide at least some sort of response. Look at this list of possible statements or questions to see if any seem clearly inappropriate or obviously appropriate.

  • Mr./Ms. Jones, I am so sorry that we haven't lived up to the expectations that you had for your visit.
  • Mr./Ms. Jones, we will get to the bottom of this, but let's deal with it in the morning. In the meantime, we can move you to a room without any maintenance issues.
  • I am as incensed as you that our maintenance worker didn't get it right the first time. Rest assured we will be letting him go because of this.
  • Mr./Ms. Jones, we genuinely appreciate your business. We want to make this right, and we want to do what it takes to keep your business with us. What are the conditions under which we can resolve this and retain you as a customer?

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