We’ve all seen this customer. This is the person who complains loud and

long to an employee who has no control over an issue. It might be about the width of aisles in a store, the wait time in a hospital, the telephone queue, etc. And, although the customer would be much better off directing their comments to someone in a position to affect some kind of change, many just don’t have the inclination or energy to go to that trouble. Unfortunately, they’re often oblivious to the hurtful impact their words can sometimes have on an employee with no power to fix things.

Your best approach in dealing with this type of customer is:

1. Very clearly acknowledge what the customer is saying.

You don’t have to argue with them, nor do you have to agree with them. But you do have to acknowledge it.

2. Gently confirm that you really have little influence over it.

Don’t scold the customers, just let them know there might be a better avenue for getting something done.

3. Offer them an effective avenue for their concern.

Give them the contact information of someone who may be able to do something about it.

Here’s an example of two wrong ways, and a right way to deal with this:

Customer: I think the lighting in this room is just dreadful!

Wrong answer #1

I agree, but that’s the way my boss wants it.

Wrong answer #2

The lighting in this room is just fine. Maybe it’s your eyes that are dreadful.

Right answer

That’s a really interesting observation. Of course, I can’t do anything about it, but would you like to speak with the person who can perhaps do something about that?

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