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This business coaching lesson teaches the necessary steps to dealing with customer complaints.

Results-Focused Training, Tools, and Workshops from Expert Business Coaches.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Dealing With Complaints: 1. Be Happy
  • Ask Yourself: How does my business respond to adversity and complaints?
  • Lesson Nugget: Don't be emotional, but own the problems and apologize to the customer.
  • Dealing With Complaints: 2. Don't Get Emotional
  • Lesson Nugget: When you have an upset customer in your business, be happy that you are receiving their feedback.
  • Dealing With Complaints: 3. Own the Problem

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What's up, guys. My name is Daniel McKenna. I am the executive producer here at Thrive15. Today in this customer service training we are in for a treat. We have Clay Clark with Dr. Robert Zoellner. This guy owns a horse stable. He owns an optometry clinic. He owns an auto auction. He owns a sleep center. This guy knows a little bit about quality control.

So today, we're going to be teaching on quality control and learning from upset customers. Here at Thrive15.com, we believe that knowledge without application is meaningless. You have to take the time, get something out of this lesson, and figure out how can I apply that specifically to my business. If you don't, watching this episode is going to be more meaningless than making reservations at McDonald's. Unless you want the corner booth, in which case, good idea.

-Dr. Z, how are you, my friend?

-I'm fine, Clay. How are you doing? Good to see you.

-I'm doing well, and I'm excited to be joined by this Office Depot brand highlighter. They're not a paid sponsor, but I just want to mention I feel really good about this highlighter.

But we're talking today specifically about something I don't think a lot of people like to talk about, because as a small business owner, we take so much pride in our business that we hate to even acknowledge we've ever had an upset customer. But we're talking today about specifically how to learn from upset customers. And I know that you've never had an upset customer, and I know the people watching have never had an upset customer, but for other people, we're going to be talking about this. So real quick, just so people get a little bit of an idea as to your street cred and why you know this subject so well, how many different businesses do you actively operate right now?

-Five that I've started from ground zero. And the oldest one that I've had is my optometry business. I have two offices here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And they've been-- Since 1991, I've been in business with those. And since then I've added a diagnostic sleep center, DME, a durable medical equipment company, an auto auction, of which we are sitting in the sales barn currently.



And also a successful thoroughbred breeding and racing ranch.

-And just so people get an idea for your early years a little bit, I mean, you started from scratch. We're talking about you grew up in a family where nobody was wealthy. I mean, you basically-- You and your wife started this together, and you've grown it.

-Absolutely. There were seven kids. I started working when I was 13, because I had to. And it's a great story, and one that-- That's why I love this country so much, the opportunity that's given us, and if you get out there and work hard, and you show a little bit of cleverness, you can make a lot of things happen.

-Have you in the history of your companies as you were growing, if you think back, back in the day when you started your first business, the optometry clinic, have you ever irritated even one customer?

-Oh yes, all the time. I mean, I think the true measure of a business is how you deal with that situation. In other words, whatever business you're in, if things go great that day-- The bread's made perfect. The pizza's on time. Da, da, da, duh da, da.

Everything goes great, and everybody's happy, and at the end of the day, you're like, what a wonderful day. We had record sales. Everybody was happy. Lock up the door. That's not the measure of the business. The measure of the business is when something goes wrong, and how they handle it. Because when things are going great, that's easy. When things aren't going great, that's when you've got to step up and really manage.

-I'm going to let you talk specifically to a Thriver in our audience amongst us here. I won't use their name, but this is somebody I just talked to on the phone this week.


-And she says, I own two shops.

ROBERT: All right.

-And as I'm growing, I'm having a real hard time, because I'm getting some complaints. And I said, well, what do you mean? She says, well, I'm getting like probably two people a week-- Because they do hundreds of transactions-- But I'm not there, and I feel like no one can ever do it as good as I can, and I'm getting two complaints a week.

And she's getting emotional. She's starting to get emotional about these complaints. And I said, we're going to record something for you, and I just gave her a little tip of, hey, you can learn from upset customers. Ask them, what happened and how you could make it better. And let's fix the system.

But what would you say to somebody who's struggling right now? They've grown the business where they used to see every customer individually, and now in this lady's case, now she has two locations, and she's dealing with some complaints. How would you tell her to emotionally handle that?

-Be happy. It's the patient that's upset that you don't know about is the one that costs you potential business and potential growth from your business. So when someone takes their valuable time and lets you know that they're not happy with something that happens at your business, embrace it.

Be happy about it. I mean, don't be happy it happened, but embrace that person. Say, listen, I want to thank you for taking your time to call me or to contact me, and let me know that's something upset you with the transaction or the business.

Number two, you have to then try to take your emotion out of it. Try not to get emotional about it. Try not to be upset that something didn't go right. That's for another day. Let's focus on this individual. Be honest and open with them. Own the problem. I think that's one of the things that happens a lot of times is that they don't own the problem.

CLAY: Own the problem.

-You've got to own the problem. You have-- The buck stops with you. If you're the owner, the buck stops with you, and you have to own it, and you have to take responsibility for what one of your employees did.

And you have to look at that person in the eye or over the phone, and you have to honestly say, I am so sorry. You know, I did not intend for that to happen, and I apologize from the bottom of my heart. Take that-- Get their raw emotion out of it too. Own it, apologize for it, and then work on the healing and customer service training, and what you can do to fix the problem.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 2
  • Notable Quotable: "Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates
  • Lesson Nugget: When dealing with an angry customer don't argue with them, listen to them.
  • Notable Quotable: "B.L.A.S.T. Believe. Listen. Answer. Satisfy. Trust." - David Novak
  • Lesson Nugget: Own the mistakes and apologize to the customer. Then ask,"What can I do to make it better?"


-Bill Gates was famous for saying, "Your most unhappy customers are the greatest source of learning."

-Wow. Yes, there it is. Yeah.

-I think it really hammers home what you-- what you said there. And it seems to me that the-- a lot of the successful, I say, a lot. Every successful entrepreneur I've met says, well, you need to learn a lot from your failures. I mean learning-- the cruelest and most effective teacher is failure. They always talk about, you need to fail forward and you need to learn from your mistakes. And I think sometimes that's easy to say-- read in a book or easy for you to hear. But then when you're in that situation and you're dealing with that criticism, it can be tough.

-It can be.

-So if I'm watching this and I'm somebody-- let's say I own a fast food restaurant or something, and I have a complaint right now. So let's say I'm at the window right now. OK? And somebody goes through the window, the drive-through window, they get their order wrong. They go, that's it. I'm going back.


And they drive back to the store. They get out of their car. They walk in. And now I'm the customer. I'm talking to you, and you're the manager. And I say, hey, I ordered a burrito. And I definitely have two tacos. And every time I come here I get an order wrong. What's wrong with you people? How do you-- how do you handle that sort of thing?

-First of all, when you have a patient that's what I call hot. I mean their emotions and they're hot, and they're in public space, you want to get them into a private area. You want to try to get them out of the flow of everybody, because that-- you know that toxic-- you know. We want to-- try to get them away from the other customers and get them into a safe spot, as I call it. And then at that point, you want to listen to them. Very important to let them talk. Because if you try to interrupt them, if you try to guess what they're going to say, if you try to not let them get it out. They're going to-- they're going to get it out, sooner or later. And you want them to get it out in your safe place with you. Let them say their piece. I mean--

-Have you ever made the mistake of arguing with a customer before you do this? Have you ever done that before?

-That's how I learned to do this. Yes.


-That's-- unhealthy.

-I'm just asking because I know somebody watching this is going, yeah, but. And you're saying, never but. Just listen to them.

-Amen. That's what you do. You listen to them. You let them say what it is they're going to say. You're already probably thinking about ways to fix it. You're two steps ahead of them. It's maybe not the first time you've heard it. But you have to calm down and you have to let them talk.

-Are they going to curse at you sometimes?


-Are they going to raise their voice?


-Are they going to freak out sometimes, be red-faced?


-I want to ask if you agree with this, cause this is a little trick that I've taught my staff. The guy who started-- the guy-- Mr. Novak, who is the CEO of Young Brands, he has a system called B.L.A.S.T. He says, believe the person who is yelling at you.


-Listen to what they're saying.


-Try to answer their questions.


-And then move to satisfy and to build that trust. Do you agree with that B.L.A.S.T.?

-That's a great acronym and I'm going to grab a hold of that. But that's exactly what you do. You have to believe them. If they tell you that your receptionist is mean, you think your receptionist will ever say, oh yes, I'm mean?

-Oh yeah.


-I hate people.

-You have-- yeah.


But you have to believe what they're saying. You have to believe. And you do that by the listening. And then, I love that. Yeah. B.L.A.S.T.

-Now here we go. Now when it comes time to answer. So I've just finished. I am-- so you said, what's wrong? And I said, I'll tell you what's wrong. I ordered two soft tacos. I got the burrito. I drove about half a mile down. I am just-- you know, I'm going to be late for work and all that. Now, how do you move into that phase where you begin to-- how do you transition-- after I finish yelling, how do you move into that phase where you kind of answer and you move to satisfy and build that trust? What do you do?

-Well, I think the answer is is that you own it, as I was saying earlier. You own it. You apologize for it. You-- you-- you explain to them that that's not your goal here, is to number one, upset them, number two, to give them the wrong food. It's kind of like, OK. There's a third car coming into pick up. Let's screw up their order. Your staff is not about that. You didn't wake up that morning and go, OK, the hundredth person through my drive-through, I'm going to totally mess with--


-Today. Yeah. So you-- you-- you own it. And you apologize for it. Now, the thing that I think is so powerful at that point-- a lot of times, you'd just be amazed at how much that diffuses people to go, oh, yeah. OK. Thanks that's what I wanted. And then I think one of the most powerful things you can say out there, business owners, is this. You can look at them and ask them, what can I do to make it better?

-Mm. Mm.

-You don't assume you know. You don't assume, oh, here's a bucket of ten burritos. You don't assume you get a free burrito of the day for the rest of your life. You ask them, what can I do to make it better?

-To whoever's watching this going, yeah, yeah, but if you ask them that they're going to say, give me a lifetime free pass to Burrito World, what do you say?

-They might. And then what you do is you laugh and you say, well, that's probably not reasonable. That's probably a little excessive for what's happened here.


-OK. And you'd be surprised, maybe one out of 1,000 will say something ridiculous like that.


-Most of them will be reason-- most of them will actually say something less than what you would even offer them. Ah. That's the key. Because, you know, a lot of them may say, oh, I just wanted you to hear and just give me that burrito and thanks, man. Yeah. And that's what they wanted.

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 3
  • Lesson Nugget: Stay focused on building your business and not winning an argument. By owning mistakes and treating your customers like a VIP your business will thrive.
  • Lesson Nugget: When a customer is frustrated or displeased with your services, make a way to please them and make them love you.
  • Lesson Nugget: When someone complains, they are giving you the opportunity to correct a mistake and wow them!
  • Notable Quotable: "Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be." - Jack Welch
  • Lesson Nugget: Treat your customers as if they are the 99 out of 100 people who are happy with your business.


-Reason why I'm hammering home on each one of these points is because this happens every day across America.

-Yes. We have thousands of people-- just in Tulsa-- every day buying things at any given time. And they have mistakes and things that happen, and there's a lot of business owners doing wrong things.

And so what I wanted to do is take just a moment to list an example of things I've done wrong, and I thought maybe you could then hammer home on why that was wrong and what I should have done. OK?


-So I had the customer who called me and said, you're a disc jockey ruined my daughter's wedding.

And I said, well, let me pull up your file real quick. I want to find out what's going on.

So I thought I did that OK. I pulled up their file, and I look. And I have something in the customer service notes-- person refused payment for deposit, person was late for this--

So I realized that this person has had some issues, like a lot of issues, and there's more things in the file that were written.

So I came back, and I was like, well, I know you think that we ruin their wedding, but really what we did was--

And I started kind of doing the arguing thing. I got myself a little lawsuit, little letter, saying I ruined their receptions, really. Why is it wrong to argue with the customer and explain to them how you're right? Even to this day, I know they were wrong. But now looking back, and I go, you know what? I was wrong for saying that--

But why--

-It's so tempting. It's so tempting to try to prove to them that you're right and they're wrong, but ultimately that gets you what the little boy shot at-- nothing,

Everything you're doing, you're doing to build your business. You're not doing this to out debate some random person that you met on the street. You're not doing this to do that. You're doing it to build your business, and the way you build your business is you own that mistake.

As you say, I am so sorry we ruined your daughter's wedding.

-Even if the person's wrong?

-Even if the person is wrong to some degree. Now, there is the limit. I mean, there's no absolutes in life.

-Yeah. I'm trying to just get a good feel here.

-There's no absolutes in life. But if you address, if you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, I did what I did to build my business, and that was the right thing to do.

Then you can sleep at night.

If you say, I did that because I wanted to prove that I was right, and they were wrong. I did that because they were mean, they didn't pay their bills, on and on and on.

If you're doing anything other than trying to build your business, then you're doing it out of the wrong spirit.

-Another thing I did a lot in my first four or five years of business is I like to explain to the customer in elaborate detail exactly what the cause of the issue was and at no point letting them talk.


-Boom. Two big, bad mistakes right there. They're the ones with the issue. They're the one that needs to speak. They're the ones that need to get it off their chest. And if you don't allow that, then you are going nowhere fast.

-OK. Final example of something that I should not have done but I did. I did it routinely when I started too-- was the one where I would avoid them entirely.

-Oh, yeah. That's it. How'd that work out for you?

-You just call, and you're not available. Because I'm a wuss. It was like a year into my business, and they're like, I want to--

Uh, tell them I'm out forever.

-You know what I mean? Because I want to avoid that. Can do that either?

-Can't do that either. That doesn't build a business either. You have to address those things, learn from those things.

We talked earlier in some other segments about mystery shopping. Those are mystery shoppers in some regard. I mean, they used your business, and they had an experience. And then they are calling you to discuss that experience.

Now, the smart guy takes that information and turns that frown into a smile, turns it upside down. And they gather up that person, and they rebuild that trust again. And they make them happy. They take those lemons, and they make that lemonade. And they move on in life.

Because one person that's unhappy with the business will tell x. 10. A person that's happy will tell two.

Do what you need to do to get that person happy to help you build your business.

-True story. In your business, I know of hundreds of people who have bought glasses from your business. And very happy people. And I know of one particular situation where I knew of somebody who had a frustration at the optometry clinic, and you guys not only apologized, but I believe you gave the person a substantial discount off of their frames or something. But this person is now a fan, and I saw it happen because I remember I had met with you for lunch. And I had mention in passing, I said, you know, I had a great lunch with Doctor Zoellner. He's been an awesome mentor, awesome. Just learned some great things.

-And they were like, yeah. I bought some frames over there, and I had an issue.

And I said, well, call him. Call up there.

And they were amazed by how it was handled, and I think we have to-- you said, to go back to the beginning-- be thankful when they do complain.

-Because you have an opportunity to fix it. You have that opportunity to take that person and wow them. And that's what it's about. Because when you wow them, now you have your little army of people out there singing your praises. And then it just becomes this wonderful thing called business doing that.

-Yeah. The old hockey stick growth.

Now, Jack Welch, the former CEO of GE has repeatedly said, "Face reality as it is. Not as it was or as you wish it to be."

How important is it in your mind for entrepreneurs to know about the complaints that their customers are saying?

-I think it's everything. I think that's how you make your business better. That's how you tweak it.

And one thing about customers coming in and customers complaining-- I'm not sure this is the exact place we want to put this in Thrive, but it came across my head. So I said, I better say it.

And that is, [INAUDIBLE] is how we treat the initial person that comes in. In other words, when you go to work, you may have a hundred customers that day. And you may have one that you think is going to come in and try to cheat you-- may try to steal something, may try to beat you out of something, may be just a bad apple.

And so what you do is you put all these systems in play so you treat everybody as if they're that one person. All right?

And I have found that that generates more of the complaints, more of the issues, more of the-- you've got to trust those patients.

And I tell my employees all the time, listen. Don't treat everybody as if they're the one. Let's treat the as if they're the 99. OK?

That one, yeah, may get us every now and then. You may have that person that's complaining-- it's only complaining because they want to get a discount on their frame. They may want to get a discount on this. They may want to get a free chicken sandwich or whatever it is they want from you, OK?

But you know what? If you treat everybody as if they're going to be that one, the 99 will be very dissatisfied.

-Love that. So treat everybody as if they are the 99.


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