Most business owners deal with one to five complaints a week. More than 64% of owners cite that the biggest complaints are about billing and pricing, followed by quality issues, according to a recent survey by consulting firm George S. May International. An irate or annoyed customer doesn't have to be a lost one. Studies have revealed that 95% of dissatisfied customers would do business again with a company if their problems were solved quickly and satisfactorily. It's up to you to turn the situation around. Here's how.

When a customer begins to explain a problem, control any impulse to reactive defensively. You can win back disenchanted customers just by listening, so let them do the talking. If your company is at fault, acknowledge the error and apologize. You can appease angry customers when you let them know your willingness to correct the problem to their satisfaction.

Before you offer up remedies, be sure to ask the customer how he or she would prefer the problem be resolved. A customer may be amenable to your replacing an item or redoing the work. If a customer is adamant about a full or partial refund, it may be in your best interest to honor the request, even when it's not your policy to do so. Your yielding can help squash any bad word-of-mouth advertising.

If your company is not at fault, don't rub it in a customer's face. Instead, offer an explanation that focuses on helping the person avoid any similar situations in the future. And you should still express regret that the customer had that negative experience with your company. When employees are involved in the dispute, take time out to retrace the problem with them, providing them with the necessary retraining.

Copyright © 2000 Kimberly Stansell. All Rights Reserved. Do not duplicate or redistribute in any form.