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How to Receive a Complaint

A while back I wrote a post about complaining. There is definitely an art to complaining. So anyway I was recently in a waiting room of a popular business. There was only one other person in the large waiting area and he looked miserable.

A gentleman comes out and asks if someone was waiting on a check. Man A stood up and went over. He confirmed he was waiting and Man B introduces himself as the Finance Director. Let that soak in for a minute, Finance Director. 

Well Man A asks if Mr. Director knows what happened that has caused him to wait on this check. Finance Director says that no he doesn't know and he prefers not to. That the less he knows the better. I don't know what your life experience is, but this is the first Finance Director I have ever met that says the less he knows the better. I exchanged looks with one of my family members. This made no sense. 

Well then Man A asks if the Finance Director would like to know what happened. (When someone has been wronged, what they want most is an apology.) Finance Director reiterates that he prefers not to know. About this time a third gentleman arrives with check in hand and gives a quick "Sorry this wasn't handle the way it should've been." He then hands Man A the check. Man A says, "No it wasn't." Turns and stalks out. 

I don't know what happened that caused this man to receive a check. This was not the kind of business where checks are regularly handed out. I definitely saw a few things that could have been handled better and was inspired to give a few pointers on receiving a complaint. Something of a follow-up.

1. Apologize. 
When someone feels like they have been wronged (everyone complaining feels that they or someone has been wronged) they mostly want to hear someone justify their feelings. If you try a little bit, you can always find a way to apologize without admitting fault. "I'm so sorry I/we made you feel that way."

2. Specify.
Sometimes people want something specific sometimes they just want to inform you of an experience. Find out what the complainer is looking for out of their complaint. Make sure you find out something specific. Usually you can find this out by asking something along the lines of, "How can I fix this situation for you?" Also, be sure to get all of the details of the complaint, especially if you are going to relay it to someone else.

3. Explain.
If the complaint warrants an explanation give it. Sometimes the explanation is all you need. If this is the case it will be clear to you upon hearing the complaint. Always start with step one even if its, "I'm so sorry you felt like (this) happened." Avoid using the word "but" in your transition. Make it, "I think what happened was..." or  "Could it have been..." This makes it more positive.

4. Follow through.
Whether you promised to tell someone higher or you said you would take action, do it. And do it as quickly as possible.

I think steps two and three are interchangeable but you should always start with step one and end with step four. Someone's experience when they complain is just as important as the first time they experience what you are offering.

Every complaint received is probably indicative of many others you don't hear about. So be thankful you are hearing the good, the bad, and the ugly.


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