Seize the Complaint Turn dissatisfaction into loyalty by listening and responding

Listen, listen, listen

The first priority in addressing a client’s complaint should be to seek to understand. Listen closely to what they have to say. Do not interrupt, and think carefully about what they tell you. When the client is finished, repeat or restate the complaint in your own words, to show the client you are listening and ensure you understand the issue.

Defuse anger or resentment

Do not express any hostility or defensiveness in response to the complaint. Instead, thank your client for sharing their opinions. Offer an initial empathetic statement such as “I understand,” “I hear where you are coming from,” or “I can see why you feel that way.” By listening, demonstrating interest and considering your client’s point of view, you create a positive environment for dialog and improve the likelihood your client will listen and understand your response to the complaint.

Tell your side

Before responding, use your listening skills and your understanding of the client to determine whether he or she is ready to listen. If not, give the client more time to vent, and spend more time discussing and understanding the problem. Once your client is ready to listen, carefully provide your response to the complaint. If you or your practice is in the wrong, admit it. You have nothing to gain by avoiding blame and your client should understand that everyone makes mistakes. If you believe you are in the right, carefully explain your point of view. Keep your voice calm and avoid an argumentative approach.

Resolve the problem

Whether or not the problem is your fault, you need to help your client resolve it. Once you have discussed, listened and understood the problem, ask your client “What do I need to do to make this right?” Give the client time, listen carefully and consider their reply before responding. If the client’s suggested solution is fair, or even close to fair, accept it. If you think the client’s suggestion is unfair, ask for time to consider it rather than reacting immediately. This gives the client more time to reflect as well, and he or she might come to realize their request is unreasonable.

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