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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Turn That Complaining Customer Into an Advocate, Part 2

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It’s a mistake to think that because a customer has expressed dissatisfaction with your product or service, he or she will not come back to you. Handle the situation well and treat the person with respect, and you may find that some of your most vociferous complainers become your most loyal customers.

Solving problems. Suppose you do encounter a difficult individual. (In my experience, few people are truly difficult.) It is important to make a distinction between difficult people and difficult behavior, which can sometimes result from noncooperation on your part.

  • Focus on the problem or challenge instead of on them
  • Show interest; bring out their likeable side
  • Put yourself in their shoes; show empathy
  • Be personal; use their names, if that’s what they would like
  • Appeal to their better nature (“As a parent of small children, you…”)
  • Cultivate their goodwill

Saying thank you. Let your customers know you appreciate them. Find little ways to thank them for their business, especially when they are not expecting it. This is a great way to attract compliments, especially after sorting out a difficult problem.

  • A simple but sincere thank you card (personalized)
  • Gift vouchers
  • Cards at Christmas or other appropriate times
  • VIP days for special events, launches, dinners
  • Social gatherings for key clients
  • Loyalty cards are very popular now with many organizations; discounts, bonus points, free samples, all help to make your business stand out.

Compliments and comments. Why do we find it difficult to accept compliments? Is it because:

  • We don’t have enough faith or pride in our product?
  • We think it’s probably a back-handed complaint?
  • We don’t trust people?
  • We don’t know how to react? (How about “thank you”?)

Compliments tell us what we are doing right and give our morale a boost. If we allow it, they bring us pleasure.

Some customers simply mutter a comment, because that’s just how they are. They don’t really want you to take them up on what they have said. However, it’s a good idea to take note of the comment and, if appropriate, ask “Is everything OK?”

And finally. Some key lessons on keeping abreast of customer needs and minimizing complaints:

  • Use as much of the available technology as possible; make it work for the customer
  • Focus on customers as individuals
  • Listen and act on what they say
  • Place the highest value on customer satisfaction

Always welcome complaints. They are your chance to learn what is working and discover ways to improve. Keep an eye on the long-term betterment of your practice and you’ll find ways to turn that complaint into a compliment.

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Jonathan Farrington is a globally recognized business coach, mentor, author, consultant and chairman of The JF Corporation and CEO of Top Sales Associates. For more information and tips from Jonathan, visit, or go to his blog at


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