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This business coaching episode is about the appropriate way to apologize when dealing with customer service complaints.

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

Featured Coaching Excerpt - Notes & Transcript, Part 1
  • Lesson Nugget: When apologizing for a company mistake, take personal responsibility for it, don't blame someone else. What matters is that it shouldn't have happened at all.
  • Lesson Nugget: Thanking the customer for bringing up an issue will help re-establish that you value that customer and you care about getting it right.
  • Lesson Nugget: Part of the leadership responsibility is to protect your employees in customer complaint situations.
  • Lesson Nugget: Make sure your employees know what is most important to you, whether it be the profit/loss of the situation or the experience of the unhappy customer.



MODERATOR: And then when you go to apologize, how do you need to say that?

ARTHUR GREENO: Business coaching truth: We just apologize. It's a very simple, I am so sorry. Now it's--

MODERATOR: You don't blame someone else? You don't blame someone else?

ARTHUR GREENO: No. You absolutely never blame-- like, oh, I'm so sorry. My kitchen stinks tonight. You would never say that because they don't care.

MODERATOR: A lot of people say that, though. A lot of companies say that.

ARTHUR GREENO: They do. They do. And when I'm-- it drives me nuts when I hear that. So you apologize. You just, we'll take responsibility for it. I'm so sorry that happened. Because the end result is, it shouldn't have happened. Whatever it is, whether it's the food wasn't right in the back or the service wasn't right. It shouldn't happen. You didn't come here expecting to get bad service. So, I am so sorry that that happened.

Then its, can I get you a new sandwich? Or what can I do to make this the right? And then you start trying to solve whatever the problem looks like.

MODERATOR: Now, business coaching for the next part, is solve. Solve just means what? Give them a remedy to that problem?

ARTHUR GREENO: Right. And sometimes the solving is they just want somebody to go, yeah, you're right. We screwed up.

MODERATOR: And then the final business coaching lesson is thank. Again, you're just thanking them for bringing it up.

ARTHUR GREENO: Yes. Thank you. Thank you for being a customer of ours. Thank you for letting me solve the problem for you. Whatever it may be.

MODERATOR: How do you decide whether it's time to sound the alarm or to write that off? I'll give you an example. If somebody comes in to my businesses-- and everyone does it a little differently. We've got a guy-- one of the companies I work with is a men's grooming lounge. We had a lady who came in and wanted a haircut. True story. Irate that we won't give her a haircut at a men's only.

The owner is like, hey, it's a men's only grooming lounge. It's actually called Men's Grooming Lounge. And you are not a man. You are a woman. So thus, we will not serve you. And she's, well, that's ridiculous. I deserve--. In this case, he was like, well I'm sorry. And maybe she goes somewhere else. That was his deal.

Explain in this business coaching episode about customer service training, how do you decide when it's that 1% or more that is legitimately crazy, and you need to just write-- because an employee, the front line employee is getting beat up. The person at the register is getting the riot act. They're getting yelled at by this person who's like, give me a haircut. I'm a woman, and I want a man's haircut. How do you know when to write it off and say hey, you know what there buddy?

If I was working for you, when do you come up and say, Clay, that was a crazy customer. Don't worry about it. Or when do you say, we need to sound the alarm. We need to tighten up our systems a little bit here?

ARTHUR GREENO: Well first of all, we're always going to have leadership not that far away. So they're listening for those things. The leadership-- part of the role is to protect our people. And so hopefully, if it gets to that point, our leaders are stepping in anyway.

But then, sometimes those things do happen, and we need to say, you know what? I'm so sorry you had to deal with that-- to my employees. I am so sorry that this happened to you. That shouldn't have happened. That person was clearly out of line.

And if my managers-- and they have had to do this at certain times-- is step in and say, you know what? I'm sorry. We can't help you. And there's nothing we can do to help you. I'm so sorry. And you know what? As much as we don't want that, sometimes that has to be.

MODERATOR: Now, in terms of sounding the alarm. If you've got-- because how many complaints should you have on a daily basis? In total, what's normal? Like one a day? One a week?

ARTHUR GREENO: It depends. Are they the customers that actual say anything? Are they the customers that--

MODERATOR: The ones that you hear about it.

ARTHUR GREENO: How many do we get?

MODERATOR: How many should you hear? What's the target I should be shooting for?

ARTHUR GREENO: Zero. My target is zero complaints.

MODERATOR: Is it realistic to get zero for a month?

ARTHUR GREENO: If you're good. If you're that good, you can have zero.

MODERATOR: Does anybody have zero?


MODERATOR: Does anybody have like one a day?

ARTHUR GREENO: We will generally get-- again, with all the customers we have, I will generally get--

MODERATOR: Like 1,800 a day customers come in.

ARTHUR GREENO: Yes. The difficulty is that-- like if it happens at night, and they call the store and they fix it, I would never know about it. And so we probably have one a day.

MODERATOR: One a day. One for 1,800?


MODERATOR: So it's like 1 for 100 would be 1%. So we're talking about, it's an obscenely low number.

ARTHUR GREENO: Right. And again, those are the people that actually call and complain. There's other customers that if they get bad service or they get a bad product, they're just going to never come back.

MODERATOR: OK. So the goal is to have zero. But I'm just saying, how do you know when to sound the alarm, Arthur? I mean, if you have somebody who comes in and is legitimately frustrated that your bathrooms are dirty, or the food is not great, or whatever. How do you know to go whoa, whoa, whoa? Sound the alarm. Somebody needs to be retrained. Somebody didn't know how, or someone chose not to do this.

ARTHUR GREENO: Business coaching tip: Anytime anyone complains, we're going to take a look at the situation. If it's an issue with service, then they're retrained. Now maybe not from scratch, but it's like hey, let's talk about this. Let's talk about what this looks like. And then for us, what we would do is, then we put that leader back with them and let them work shoulder-to-shoulder with that leader. So we can kind of look for the touch points and say, OK, you know what? I saw you take that order. You're doing 99% of your job right, but here's an opportunity.

One of the problems that we have-- and this is where a lot of businesses get into trouble-- our employees think that they are protectors of the brand, and they're protectors of my profits. And so they will tell someone, no, you can't have a free sandwich. And I'm going, it's just a free sandwich. Take care of the order. And they're going, but they're screwing you. This is wrong. And so it's like, I appreciate that you care about me. But let's go ahead and take care of the customer's needs.

MODERATOR: So kind of an in summary here, it doesn't matter whether you're a saint or not. You're still going to have complaints.

ARTHUR GREENO: Absolutely You absolutely will.

MODERATOR: And when you do, you don't want emotionally take them home, right?

ARTHUR GREENO: That's correct. You cannot.

MODERATOR: OK, but what you want to do is, you want to solve them immediately, and you want to use the LAST system.


MODERATOR: Business coaching review: And the LAST system, just in review is Listen, Apologize, Solve and Thank, right?


MODERATOR: Is there any other books that you might recommend, customer service training, or anything that-- if I want to read more about how to deal with complaints, is there anything that, over your career, has been there? Because really, I've found that the simple solution is sometimes the best.

ARTHUR GREENO: Yes, and in this one, that one is extremely simple.

MODERATOR: So that's the system, is Listen, Apologize, Solve, Thank. And if you want more information, maybe watch this video eight or nine times, right?

ARTHUR GREENO: That's right, that's right.

MODERATOR: Hey, I appreciate you so much, man.


MODERATOR: Thank you.

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