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Identifying the Type of Customer Complaint: Emotional & Practical

identifying-the-type-of-complaint-emotional-practicalA business is only as strong as the faith its customers have in it. If they are not satisfied with the level of service they are receiving, they’ll be sure to leave a customer complaint. It’s Capitalism in its purest form.

So what happens when you receive a customer complaint? Obviously, you don’t want to brush it under the rug. Instead, as Dale Carnegie  recommended in his Golden Book, “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.” The truth is, as a business owner, it’s crucial that you understand customer sentiment and the prevailing factors which are influencing their actions. 

To do that, you must first identify the type of complaint:

Emotional Vs. Practical Complaints

1. Emotional Complaints

An emotional complaint can often be the most difficult to handle. It is less swayed by reason, and more a result of a personal trigger which may or may not be out of your control. A great example is taking a look at online shoppers during the holidays. Every year, many Americans cut it a little too close for comfort. 

They order an item for a loved one that says 3-5 days shipping, and maybe Christmas is in four days. Statistically, there’s a good chance that their package will arrive before the big day, so they don’t even bat an eye. But… On the occasion that they miss their Christmas deadline, it’s a whole other matter. Now, their emotions are coming into play. Maybe the present was for their mom or partner. They could even be feeling a little embarrassed at the mishap. So what do they do? They take it out on your business with a bad review or a lengthy complaint. 

The solution on your end? Start by making sure you let them know they’ve been heard. Respond in kind, without the defensive tone that we as humans are programmed to use when we feel something seems unfair. Emotional complaints are less about concrete facts and more about how a person feels. They are sad/angry/upset and want that to change. This is where you have an opportunity to thrive as a problem solver. If you can find a creative way to turn their frown upside down, you’ve more than likely earned customer loyalty from someone who would have otherwise been a one-off purchaser. Focus on finding a solution that will brighten their day and less on whether or not their complaint is acceptable. 

Related article: How to Modify Your Behavior to Better Connect With People

2. Practical Complaints

Conversely, practical complaints rely on cold hard facts rather than pulling on your heartstrings. A practical complaint is often the result of a broken system rather than a chance encounter. Think of it as qualitative vs. quantitative. Practical complaints are backed by consistent recurring quantitative data points. On the other hand, emotional ones are more on the qualitative side and subjective. 

For example, a common practical complaint would be long lines at checkout. If it’s one person a year that complains, it’s likely an emotional issue that’s unique to that individual’s perspective… But if you’re consistently receiving complaints from your customers that your lines are too long, then it crosses into the realm of a practical complaint. That’s a telltale sign that you need to be taking a closer look at your processes to see what can be done to mitigate or eliminate the problem.

The best way to go about handling these types of complaints is to do a thorough investigation into the problem and identifying the key points where your business isn’t meeting customer expectations. Once you figure out why your lines are too long – whether it’s poorly trained employees, not enough open registers, or some other reason – that’s when you put controls into place that will cut down on the issue. Maintaining a constant feedback loop is critical for practical complaints, as the methods you use to resolve them must be constantly refined until the problem is eliminated. 

Related article: How to Implement Organizational Change Effectively

Learn More About Dale Carnegie Customer Complaint Resolution Training 

Implementing a consistent process to resolve complaints is the best way to reduce the number and type of complaints we receive. Learn more about how to identify complaints and efficiently address them in a manner to best serve your customers, by attending our next Dale Carnegie of Orange County training course may be right for you. You’ll explore the emotional and practical aspects of customer service necessary for building ongoing customer relationships.

Contact us today to register for our course

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