All leaders face complaints. The way we handle a complaint can reveal more of our heart than the best crafted mission statement or vision talk. It is human nature to naturally become defensive when facing a complaint and it is easy to respond with emotions, but these reactions will destroy trust and repel our followers. If we can learn how to respond correctly and respectfully to a complaint, we can actually build the trust of our people and create more buy in.
In this episode of the Leaders Factory Podcast we are discussing the skills leaders need to properly handle complaints. Click on the link below to listen to the podcast and follow along with the notes provided!
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How to Handle Complaints:
- Welcome the complaint. Remember, our members create our jobs. It is important to thank the person for bringing it to your attention. They could forget about complaining, and simply go elsewhere and you would never see this person again. Or, rather than complaining, they could begin to resent you, avoid working with you or start telling others about your faults. So, it is a good thing that they are bringing it to you directly.
- Keep your cool. Be careful to not become defensive or emotional. Be calm and you will calm down the customer.
- Listen. Practice active listening. This means summarize what you have just heard from the customer to make sure you have heard them correctly. Resist the temptation to become defensive and cut them off with your excuses before they finish explaining their issue. By allowing them to finish you gain information and the complainer get to vent their frustration.
- Show concern. If you show genuine concern and respect, the complainer gains more confidence in you. You can do this by apologizing for the problem. “I’m sorry,” is a powerful statement. It takes a strong person to say it and mean it. Don’t say it only because you have low self-esteem or want to beat yourself over the head. Say it because you truly realize a problem has occurred that you did not want to occur.
- Don’t minimize the problem. No complaint is too small. It may seem trivial to you, but I guarantee it is not trivial to the complainer.
- Get the facts. Nothing can be resolved until the facts are in. Determine what caused the problem. Was it a technical glitch? A misunderstanding? Bad judgment? Determine why you acted or spoke the way you did. How did this cause the problem? When you get to the root of the matter, you can discover its remedy.
- Be alert for false claims. Upset people tend to exaggerate. Again, get the facts so that you can access the scope of the issue and begin to address a remedy.
- Find points of agreement. Seek to find common ground with the complainer, something you can agree on. You can build on common ground. Be careful of finding common ground in a complaint against a superior or a team member unless you are willing to confront that person one on one immediately.
- Admit errors. Covering up is not right and may cause more problems and will destroy trust. When you are wrong admit it. Nothing builds trust faster than owning a mistake. Keep in mind that it is not the end of the world when you make a mistake - but the end may come sooner than you think if you keep repeating the same mistake.
- Explain your actions. Let the complainer know what you will do to correct the situation.
- Give a time estimate and make it as specific as possible. Ask the person if he or she will accept your apology. Explain what happened, why it happened and steps you have taken to correct it. Ask for the opportunity to do it right in the future. The ball is now in the other person’s court. If you have handled this situation well, future possibilities are enhanced.
- Follow through. The problem is magnified if you don’t. Nothing destroys trust faster than promising to correct a mistake and then failing to follow through.
The biggest advise I can give you in handling complaints is show respect to those who bring forth the complaint, both to their face and behind their backs in your conversations with others. As difficult as that is when the emotions become involved, choose to respect anyway. It is a choice that will serve you well in your future endeavors.
Question: How do you handle complaints? Please share it here in the "Leave a Reply" box below.