You know the feeling, you’ve had a good week and lots of complementary comments from your customers all of them, that is, except one. This customer was not happy and sent you an email. What is your reaction? Honestly, what is your reaction? In my younger career my honest reaction would be to fret about it and probably not respond or if I did, I might have been slightly defensive. “How dare they complain; don’t they realise how hard I work to build my business?” If you think about it, most local independent businesses are owned by a well-meaning hard-working individual who fully identifies themselves with the business. It follows then that when someone expresses dissatisfaction, it can be perceived as a personal attack.

The problem is, no matter how justified or not a complainant is, how many people do you think they will tell? Research shows that they will tell between 9 and 15 people and that ignores posts on social media and trip adviser.

We, as Independent businesses, must play the same game as larger businesses and deal with any complaint and ensure that it is dealt with to the complete satisfaction of the customer – even if we disagree with the premise of the complaint.

As I have got older, I have realised that if we can win back a customer who has complained, they are much more likely to stay loyal. Why is this? The answer is that deep down, people (including us) want to be heard and when someone complains they feel that they are doing us a favour which when you think about it, they are. Those who do complain are giving us valuable feedback and they need to be thanked. “Thank you for letting me know about this issue, I am sorry we let you down on this occasion, the book stops with me and I am taking steps to ensure this does not happen again”  This might do the trick but we can add “perhaps on your next visit we can offer 10% off your bill…” Often a complaining customer is not looking for any financial compensation they simply want to be heard, they want to be valued as an individual because they feel that they are telling us something important, which of course they are.