Customer Service Tips: LAAF to Handle Complaints Part 1


As a customer, what do you expect when you find out that the product or service you paid for isn’t good? Would you prefer:

  1. As a customer, what do you expect when you find out that the product or service you paid for isn’t good? Would you prefer:
  2. Someone to listen to and understand your concern?
  3. A knowledgeable and polite employee who is empowered to make a decision and do something?
  4. Options to fix the problem?
  5. A quick resolution, as immediate as possible?
  6. An apology for your inconvenience or frustration?
  7. A refund for your purchase?
  8. Depending on the situation, some kind of compensation for your trouble?
  9. Follow-through on what is agreed to and promised?

Too often when customers try to get complaints addressed, they come in contact with overworked and underappreciated employees. These employees will listen but most often can’t make a decision and have to get a manager involved. Or, they are faced with the nightmarish task of finding how and where to file a complaint online. Often, they are put on hold or have to face an automated phone machine that can get frustratingly repetitive. Have you experienced any of this as a customer? How does this run around make you feel? Does it increase your purchases and loyalty to that company’s brand? Obviously not! Too many companies take their customers for granted thinking they will always be there no matter the circumstance.

Most complaints can be handled satisfactorily. Most customers don’t want to complain. Many are reasonable complainers. Our research shows that only 1 out of 20 people, who could complain, do complain. Most customers are silent complainers they do this instead:

  • Quit buying all together at the company.
  • Reduce their purchases and seek more pleasant alternatives.
  • Tell all of their friends and family about their troubles. Now with social media options any customer can reach millions of people through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others in a heartbeat.

This is a real opportunity for any company and employee. For the company, this means they need to aggressively seek complaints by asking for customer feedback through surveys, market research, person-to-person interactions and social media campaigns. The complaint you know about you can probably solve. It’s the many complaints you don’t know about that will hurt you.

Your Role in Handling Complaints

In this day and age we tell any person to be a student of the game. As we’ve mentioned continuously learning about how to do your job better can only benefit you. Read the books, watch the DVDs or online programs, attend seminars or Webinars. Whether you have company support or not, you must Inc. yourself. No matter what job you have you are ultimately in business for yourself. You don’t do the job for free. In order to advance in your career and make your money you have to excel. In your learning, keep finding ways to understand human behavior. Review the LAAF Model below as a way to handle 90% of the complaints you receive. It gives you a guide to think like a customer, and build empathy so you can solve the problem even more effectively.


Pay attention, take notes, summarize key issues-“What I hear you saying is… “


“I am sorry that happened.” Or, “I apologize that we let you down. I know I can make it up to you.”


“Thank you for letting me know about this. I know this is an inconvenience to you.”


“I have three potential options to fix the situation. But, can I ask a couple of questions first?”

Complaining customers are golden and will become more loyal, if you respond fast and appropriately. They are golden because they told you about a problem (Many customer don’t), and now you know how you or your company can improve. With this overview of LAAF you received the nuts and bolts that can help you be better. There are more details to learn so check out part 2, and continue your education. Kerry Stokes said, “The most important adage and the only adage is, the customer comes first, whatever the business, the customer comes first.”

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