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GOAL: A Complaint Strategy for Creating Customer Loyalty

Grumpy customers with grievances can feel like a headache, but a GOAL-oriented complaint strategy will turn your customer’s criticism into an opportunity to create an avid promoter. Customers with problems are almost ten times more likely to be vocal about their experience with your company. You want them being vocal about how you changed their bad experience into a great one. Today, you’ll get a simple strategy for changing your biggest complainers into cheerleaders for your brand.

So, how to deal with customer complaints? The grenade pictured above is not a viable option. It’s no surprise that your complaint resolution strategy should focus on being ‘customer-centered.’ But what, exactly, does that mean? The word GOAL will help you remember our four simple components for turning their complaint into a compliment. Just remember:

  • G – Genuineness
  • O – Options
  • A – Acknowledgement
  • L – the Loop


Now, you’ll remember the word, so let’s dive into each concept, and discuss specific actions for effective complaints management.

GOAL Graphic

Complaint Strategy: Genuineness

If you’re dealing with a complaint and spacing out, or you have no interest in the customer’s issue, they’re going to feel it even if you’re saying all the right things. Genuineness requires customer service representatives to nurture an actual feeling of understanding for the customer’s side of the story.

Some of this will come from a natural feeling of empathy for others. But, the best ways to nurture that natural empathy are to ensure that your team is able to take breaks as needed – especially after frustrating calls. Another strategy is to make sure they are informed about problems that can occur in your service or product. It’s difficult to feel sympathy for a problem you don’t understand.

It’s not enough to FEEL empathy for the customer, one must express it as well. First, listen to a customer’s complaint – as long as it takes. Don’t interrupt them. Then, repeat their issue back in your own words. Then, ASK them if you’ve understood their problem completely, and listen again if they correct you. It might sound simple, but no strategy is better for making a customer feel heard – especially over the phone.

Complaint Strategy: Options

A customer-centered complaint resolution strategy is founded on giving the customer a feeling of control, and few things do this like allowing the customer to have options to resolve their problematic experience. Provide your complaint specialists with a number of strategies for smoothing feathers, for any given problem, and allow customers to choose the one they prefer.

Any option should include resolving the original problem, but your goal isn’t just to solve the customer’s issue, it’s to turn their entire experience around. Your options should also include going above and beyond to make up for the initial mistake. Offer to provide credit with the company, an additional gift as a thank you for their patience, or a discount on a future order. If you have the flexibility, and none of your options seem to appeal to the customer, you can even ask, “What can we do to change this experience into a positive one for you?”

As before, listen without interruption, and entertain reasonable possibilities. Even if you are unable to authorize the customer’s request, they are likely to be impressed that you tried.

Complaint Strategy: Acknowledgement

Yes, you’ve listened to your customer’s complaint. You’ve given them options to solve the issue, or you’re planning to, but don’t forget to accept that they’re having a problem and – despite what you may have heard to the contrary – APOLOGIZE. Sometimes, it’s all a customer really wants to hear.

This is the part where some people will say, “Don’t tell them the problem is your fault!” Look, unless there’s a real legal issue, or you’re an insurance company, if they’ve paid for your service, fault is irrelevant: You ARE responsible for the quality of their experience. Even if you say that you’re sorry this situation is causing such an inconvenience, you’re still making the apology, and acknowledging your responsibility for improvement.

Complaint Strategy: the Loop

Once you’ve listened to the customer, acknowledged their issue, and agreed on the resolution, now is the time to take action. While you’re doing the work of fixing the problem, though, don’t neglect to keep them updated on how the process is going.

Did you tell them you’d give a refund? Let your customer know the request is being processed by accounting, and when it will appear. If you told them to expect a re-delivery, write or call when the package is shipped, provide tracking. Whatever you’ve agreed to do, report on the process to the customer regularly until you’ve completed the resolution.

And then, reach out again, to make sure they are completely satisfied.

Perhaps these steps seem like common sense to you, and if so, great! You’re ahead of the complaint resolution curve. But it can be easy to become frustrated by complaints, and lose sight of the opportunity they provide to impress a customer with work put into regaining their trust. We hope that even if it is a refresher for you, this GOAL will help you reach your customer loyalty goals.


Now you’re ready to turn complaints into compliments. What’s next?

  • Be ready for the next time complaint management requires a personal touch: choose an Apology Gift ahead of time.
  • Make sure the rest of your team is on the same page and aiming for the same GOAL. Share this article with your favorite social media network.


Complaint Department: Mark Crossfield