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Frustrated. Angry. Irritated. Disappointed. Flabbergasted. Annoyed. Shocked. Confused.

This is how I felt recently when I purchased a pair of prescription sunglasses and then returned them because the lenses weren’t dark enough. I purchased the same pair a second time with a promise of darker lenses and then returned those too when I was told, “That’s as dark as our lenses come”.

Here’s the real kicker — after speaking with a store employee, store manager, AND customer service, I was asked, “Would you like to look at other glasses?”  I thought: What??!!? No! An emphatic no. If you can’t provide what I want, why would I order another pair?

Because of this experience, I lost trust and confidence in this company’s service and quality, and I will likely never return.  I expect you have had similar experiences.

Complaints are a customer’s gift to you and here is the reason why – you get a chance to make things right.  And if you really want to win a customer’s trust, confidence, and business back, use the 7 Steps to Customer Service Recovery.

ONE. Apologize.  Apologizing does not mean you are admitting guilt; it simply means you are acknowledging the customer’s dissatisfaction.


“I’m sorry this has been a frustrating process for you.”

“I apologize for the confusion.”

“We apologize for the delay.”

TWO. Understand the Problem. First, suspend judgment and refrain from drawing conclusions about the situation before you have all the information.  Second, listen – truly listen. Check for understanding by making sure you understand what your customer means.  Third, ask questions to get the details you need.

THREE. Determine the Cause. Figure out where things went wrong so you can prevent it from happening again. Maybe it is a training issue, a system issue, a technology issue, a communication issue, a quality assurance issue ….  (If telling the customer doesn’t help the customer, don’t share it. Blame or passing off responsibility just makes the customer more frustrated and less confident in your product or service.)

FOUR. Offer 2-3 Solutions.  One solution is always to do nothing.  All other solutions are up to you and your customer.  Explore acceptable solutions with your customer whenever possible.  Offer choices and give the customer the power to choose.  Don’t be afraid to offer solutions that include additional costs for your customer – it should be their choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

FIVE. Implement the Solution. Make absolutely sure you follow-through on the solution the customer chose and do so in a timely manner.

SIX. Thank Them. The last thing your customers expect is to be thanked for complaining!  This can go a looooong way.  (Saying, “Thanks for complaining” is obviously not the right thing to say.)


“Thank you for being honest.”

“We appreciate your continued business and trust.”

“Thank you for the chance to make this right.”

SEVEN. Follow Up. If possible, check in with your customer when all is said and done.  It will not only reinforce that you care, it will also end things on a positive note!

When I reflect on my sunglass purchasing experience, it is clear Determine the Cause would be the place to start.  It was obvious that neither the store manager nor employee was trained thoroughly on the company’s products.  Had I been told that their sunglasses lenses came with a light tint only, I would not have purchased the glasses in the first place.  Now, you may be thinking they would have lost the chance to ever make the sale.  Well, the sale was lost anyhow. On top of that, they incurred shipping cost and the expense of two sets of lenses that went to waste, not to mention the loss of future sales for my everyday glasses. That’s a lot of loss.

Remember, a customer complaint is a gift.  It is an opportunity to make things right!